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•• • 

3 • 

J. WCnerf, Printer, 
BUeMIone Cowt^ Londoa* 



LEirrfiR I. 
Introduction .... Page i 


Reasons for Restraint. — Prevention of 
Usury 6 


Reasons for Restraint. — Prevention 6f 
Prddigality 16 



Reasons for Restraint. — Protection of 
Indigence ........ Page 


Reasons for Restraint. — Protection of 
Simplicity 39 


Mischiefs of ihe anti-usurioiis Laws, AS 


Efficacy of anti-usurious Laws • . . 62 

mammr\, * 



Virtual Usury allowed .... Page 73 


Biackstone considered 84 


Grounds of the Prejudices against 
Usury 94 

Compound Interest 1 10 


Maintenance and Champerty ... 117 



To Dr. Smith, on Projects in Arts, 
Sc Page 129 

_ . J 

> • •• 
* • • 


* • usury. 

'• -•. 




Crichoffs in WMu Russia, JamuryilTfn^y/ 

Among the various species 07* 
modifications of liberty, of which 
on different occasions we have heard 
s6' much in England^ I do not re- 
collect ever seeing anjr thing yet of- 
fered in behalf of the liberty of mak^ 
ing one's own terms in money-bargains. 
From so general and universal a ne» 
glect^ it is an old notion of minCj 
as you well know^ that this meek and 
unassuming species of liberty has beei^ . 
suffering much injustice. 

B A fancy 

2 Lett. I. Intlf^ductixm. 

A fdncy has taken.ihe, just now> to 
trouble you witht-i^y reasons : which, 
if you think th'e^^* capable of answer- 
ing any gop^ purpose, you may for- 
ward to ^^he/ press: or in the other 
case> .what will give you less trouble, 
to the Btse. 

Igi' k word, the proposition I have 

been accustomed to lay down to my- 

.. 'self on this subject is the following 

^ •.'*•. one, viz. that^o man 6f ripe years and 

* » * 

^ sound mind, acting freefy, and with 
his eyes open, might to be hindered, with 
a view to his advantage, from making 
such bargain, in the way of obtaining 
money, ^ he thinks fit : nor, (what is a 
necessary consequence) amf body hin^ 
dered from supplying him, upon any 
terms he thinks prop^ to accede to. 

This proposition, were it to be re- 
ceived, would level, you see, at one 
siroke, all the barriers which law, 


T _. .- T 

Lett. I. Introduction. • 

either statute or ootninoD, hare ia 
-their united wiedooa set ap> either 
against the crying sio of Usury, w 
against i^e liard-nanted and little- 
beard-of practice of Champerty; to 
which we must also add arportion of 
the multifarious, and as Iittte>heard- 
of offence, of Maintenance. 

On this occasion, were it any indU 
Tidual antagonist I had to deal with', 
my part would be a smooth and ea^ 
one. '* You, who fetter cOntraotss 
•* you, who lay restraints on the liber- 
" ty of man, it is for you" (I shonM 
say) ** to assign a reason for your do- 
" ing so." That contracts in generd 
ought to be observed, is a rule, the 
propriety of which, no man was ever 
yet found wrong-headed enough to I 

deny ; if this case is one of the excep- 
tions (for some doubtless there are) ^ 

which the safety and welfare of every 
B 2 society 


4 Lett. I. IntfoductwH. 

iociet^ require should be taken out 
of that general rule^ in this case^ as in 
all those others^ it lies upon him> who 
alledges the necessity of the excep*- 
tion^ to produce a reason for it. 

This^ I say, would be a short and 
very easy method with an individual i 
hm^ as the world has no mouth of its 
own to plead by, no certain attorney 
by which it can '* come and defend 
'^ this force and injury/' I must even 
find arguments for it at a venture, and 
ransack my own imagination for such 
phantoms as I can find to fight with. 

In favour of the restraints opposed 
to the species of liberty I contend for, 
I can imagine but five arguments. 

1. Prevention of usury. 

fi. Prevention of prodigality. 

S. Protection of indigence against 

4. Re- 

Lett. I. Introduction. S 

4. Repression of the temerity of 

5. . Protection of simplicity against 

Of all these in their order. 

§ Lett. IL Seasons for Restraint. 


Seasons for Restraint. — Prevention of 


I Will begin with the prevention of 
usury: because in the sound of the 
word usury lies> I take it, the main 
strength of the argument : or, to speak 
strictly, of what is of more import- 
ance than all argument, of the hold 
which the opinion I am. combating 
has obtained on the imaginations and 
passions of mankind. 

Usury is a bad thing, and as such 
ought to be prevented: usurers are a 
bad sort of men, a very bad sort of 
men, and as such ought to be punish- 
ed and suppressed. These are among 


Prevention of Usury. 7 

the string of propositions which every 
man finds handed down to him from 
his progenitors: whieh most men are 
disposed to accede to without exami- 
nation, and indeed not unnaturaily 
nor even unreasonably disposed, for 
it is impossible the bulk of mankind 
should find leisure, bad they the abi- 
lity, to examine into the grounds of 
an hundredtb part of the rules and 
maxims, which they find themselves 
obliged to- act upon. Very good apo^ 
logy this for John Trot: but a little 
more inquisitiveness maybe required, 
of legislators. 

You, my friend, by whom the true 
force of words is so well understood, 
have, I am sure, gone before me in 
perceiving, that to say usury is a 
thing to be ' prevented, is neither 
more nor less than begging the mat* 
ter ia question. I know of but two 


S Lett. II. Reasom far Restraint. 


definitions that can possibly be given 
of usury; one is, the taking of a 
greater interest than the law allows 
of: this may be styled the political 
or legal definition. The other is the 
taking of a greater interest than it is 
usual for men to give] and take : this 
may be styled the moral one: and 
this, where the law has not interfered, 
is plainly enough the only one. ' It is 
plain, that in order for usury to be 
prohibited by law, a positive descrip- 
tion must have ^been found for it by 
law, fixing, or rather superseding, 
the moral one. To say then that 
usury is a thing that ought to be 
prevented, is sa3ring neither more nor 
less, than that the utmost rate of in- 
terest which shall be taken ought to 
be fixed; and that fixation enforced 
by penalties, or such other means, 
if any, as may answer the purpose of 


Prevention of Usury. 9 

preventing the breach of it. A law 
punishing usury supposes^ therefore, 
a law fixing the allowed legal rate of 
interest : and the propriety of the pe* 
nal law must depend upon the pro- 
priety of the simply-prohibitive, or, 
if you please, declaratory, one. 

One thing then is plain ; that, an- 
tecedently to custom growing from 
convention, there can be no such 
thing as usury : for what rate of in- 
terest is there that can naturally be 
more proper than another ? what na« 
tural fixed price can there be for the 
use of money more than for the use of 
any other thing? Were it not then 
for custom, usury, considered in a 
moral view, would not then so much 
fis admit of a definition : so far from 
having existence, it would not so 
much as be conceivable: nor there- 
fore could the law, in the definition 

B 3 it 

10 Lett, II. Brasons for Restraint. 

it took upoD itself to give of such 
offence, have so much as a guide to 
steer by. Custom therefore is the 
sole basis, which, either the moralist 
in his rules and precepts, or the le- 
gislator in his injunctions, can have 
to build upon. But what basis can 
be more weak or unwarrantable, as a 
ground for coercive measures, than 
custom resulting from free choice ? 
My neighbours, being at liberty, have 
liappened to concur among them- 
selves in dealing at a certain rate of 
interest. I, who have money to lend, 
and Titius, who wants to borrow it 
of me» would be glad, the one of us 
to accept, the other to give, an in- 
terest somewhat higher than theirs: 
why is the liberty they exercise to b» 
maite a pretence for depriving me and 
TttiuE of ours f 


Prevention qf Usury. 1 1 

Nor has blind custom^ thus made 
the sole and arbitrary guide^ any 
thing of steadiness or uniformity ia 
its decisions ' it has varied^ from age 
to age, in the same country: it Ta-* 
ries, from country to country, in the 
same age : and the legal rate has va- 
ried along with it : and indeed, with 
regard to times past, it is from the 
legal rate, more readily than from 
any other source, that we collect the 
customary. Among the Romans, till 
the time of Justinian, we find it as 
high 'as 12 per cent.: in England, so 
late as the time of Henry VI IL, we 
find it at 10 per cent. : succeeding 
statutes reduced it to 8, then to 6, 
and lastly to 5, where it stands at 
present. Even at present in Ireland 
it is at 6 per cent. ; and in the West* 
Indies at 8 per cent; and in Hin- 
dostan, where tliere is no rate limited 


IS Lett. II. Reasons/or Restraint. 

by law, the lowest caatomary rate is 
10 or 12, At Constantinople, ia cer- 
tain cases, as I have been well in- 
formed, thirty per cent, is a com- 
mon rate. Now, of ail these widely 
different rates, what one is there, that 
is intrinsically more proper than aoo- 
ther? What is it that evidences this 
propriety in each instance ? what but 
the mutual convenience of the par- 
ties, as manifested by their consent? 
It is convenience then that has pro- 
duced whatever there has been of cus- 
tom in the matter: "What can there 
then be in custom, to make it a bet- 
ter guide than the convenience which 
gave it birth ? and what is there in 
convenience, that should make it a 
worse guide in one case than in ano- 
ther ? It would be convenient to me 
to give' 6 per cent, for money: I 
wish to do so. " No," (says the law) 
" you 

Prevention of Usury. 19 



you shan't." — Why so ? " Because 
it lis not convenient to your neigh- 
bour to give above 5 for it." Can 
any thing be more absurd than such 
a reason ? 

Much has not been ''done^ I thinks 
hy legislators as yet in the way of fix- 
ing the price of other commodities: 
and, in what little has been done^ 
the probity of the intention has, I 
believe, in general, been rather more 
unquestionable than the rectitude of 
the principle, or the felicity of the 
result. Putting money out at interest, 
is exchanging present money for fu- 
ture : but why a policy, which, as 
applied to exchanges in general^ 
would be generally deemed absurd 
and mischievous, should be deemed 
necessary in the instance of this par- 
ticular kind of exchange, mankind 
are as yet to learn. For him wha 


14 Lett. II. Reasons for RestrainL 

tftkes as much as be caa get for the 
use of aay other sort of things an. 
house for instance^ there is no parti- 
cular appellation, nor any mark of 
disrepute : nobody is ashamed of do- 
ing so^ nor is it usual so much as to 
profess to do otherwise. Why a man 
\vho takes as much as he can get^ be 
it six, or seven, or eight, or ten per 
cent, for the use of a sum of money, 
should be called usurer, should be 
loaded with an opprobrious name, any 
more than if he had bought an house 
with it, and made a proportionable 
profit by the house, is more than I can 

Another thing I would also wish 
to learn, is, why the legislator should 
be more anxious to limit the rate of 
interest one way, than the other? 
why he should set his face against the 
owners pf that species of property 


PreoerUian of Usury. 15 

more than of any other? why he 
should make it his business to prevent 
their getting more than a certain price 
for the use of it^ rather than to prevent 
their getting less? why, in short, he 
should not take means for making it 
penal to offer less, for example, than 
5 per cent, as well as to accept more ? 
Let any one that can, find an answer 
to these questions; it is more than I 
can do: I except always the distant 
and imperceptible advantage, of sink- 
ing the price of goods of all kinds; 
aaad, in that remote way, multiplying 
the future enjoyments of individuals^ 
But this was a consideration by far too 
distant and refined, to ha^e been the 
original ground for confining the limi- 
tation to this side^ 

16 Lett. III. Reasons for Restraint 


Reasons for Restraint. — Prevention of 


Having done with sounds^ I come 
gladly to propositions j which, as far 
as they are true in point of fact, may 
deserve the name of reasons. And 


first, as to the e£Scacy of such restric- 
tive laws with regard to the prevention 
of Prodigality. 

That prodigality is a bad thing, 
and that the prevention of it is a pro- 
per object for the legislator to propose 
to himself, so long as he confines him- 
self to, what I look upon as, proper 
measures, I have no objection to allow, 
at least for the purpose of the argu- 

Prevention of Prodigality. 17 

ment j though, were this the principal 
question, I should look upon it as in- 
cumbent on me to place in a fair light 
the reasons there may be for doubting^ 
how far, with regard to a persua arriv- 
ed at the age of discretion, third per- 
sons may be competent judges ; which 
of two pains may be of greater force 
and value to him, the present pain of 
restraining his present desires, or the 
future conjiingent pain he may be ex- 
posed to suffer from the want to which 
the expense of gratifying these desires 
may hereafter have reduced him. To 
prevent our doing mischief to one 
another, it is but too necessary to put 
bridles into all our mouths : it is ne«^ 
cessary to the tranquillity and very be- 
ing of society : but that the tacking 
of leading-strings upon the backs of 
grown persons, in order to prevent 
their doing themselves a mischief, is 


18 Lett. III. Reasons for Restraint. 

not necessary either to the being or 
tranquillity of society, however con- 
ducire to its well-being, I think can- 
not be disputed. Such paternal, or, if 
you please, maternal, care, may be a 
good work, but it certainly is but a 
work of supererogation. 

For my own part, I must confess, 
that so long as such niethods only are 
employed, as to me appear proper ones, 
and such there are, I should. not feel 
myself disinclined to see some measures 
taken for the restraining of prodigality : 
but this I cannot look upon as being 
of the number. My reasons I will 
DOrW endeavour to lay before you. 

In the first plaee, I take it, that it 
is neither natural nor usual for prodi- 
gals, as such, to betake themselves to 
this method, I mean, that of giving 
a rate of interest above the ordinary 

one^ to supply their wants. 


Prevention of Prodigality. 1 9 

In the first place, no man, I hope 
you will allow, prodigal or not prodi-* 
gal, ever thinks of borrowing money 
to spend, so long as he has ready money 
of his own, or effects which he can 
turn into ready money without loss. 
And this deduction strikes off what,,. 
I suppose^, you will look upon as the 
greatest, proportion of tl^e persons, 
subject, at any given tioie, to the im-^ 
yy^tatil^n of prodigality. 

In the next place, no mam, in such 
a country a& Great Britain at least, 
has occasion, nor is at aU likely, ta 
take up money at an extraordinary 
rate of interest, who has security to 
give, equal to that upon which money 
rs commonly to be had at thie highest 
ordinary rate« While so many ad- 
vertise^ as are to be seen every day 
advertising, money to be lent at five 
per cent* what should possess a man^ 


so Lett* III. Reasons for RestrainL 

who has any thing to offer that can 
be called a security, to give, for ex- 
ample^ six per cent, is more than I 
can conceive. 

You may say, perhaps, that a man 
who wishes to lend his money out up- 
on security, wishes to have his inter- 
est punctually, and that without the 
expense, and hazard, and trouble, 
and odium of going to law ; and 
that, oix this account, it is better to 
have a sober man to deal with than a 
prodigal. So far I allow you 5 but 
were you to add, that on this ac- 
count it would be necessary for a pro- 
digal to offer more than another man, 
there I should disagree with you. In 
the first place, it is not so easy a thing, 
nor, I take it, a common thing, for 
the lender upon security to be able to 
judge, or even to form any attempt 
to judge, whether the conduct of 


Pirtoention of Prodigality. t\ 

oae who offers to borrow his money 
13 or is not of such a cast, a$ to bring 
him under this description. The 
question, prodigal or not prodigal, 
depends upon two pieces of informa- 
tion ; neither of which, in general^ 
is ve^ easy to come at : on the one 
hand, the amount of his means and 
reasonable expectations $ on the other 
hand, the amount of his expenditure^ 
The goodness or badness of the se- 
curity is a question of a very differ- 
ent nature : upon this head, every 
man has a known and ready means of 
obtaining that sort of information, 
which is the most satisfactory the na- 
ture of things affords, by going to 
his lawyer. It is accordingly, I take 
it, on their lawyer's opinion^ that 
lenders in general found their deterr 
mination in these cases, and not upon 
Any calculations they may have form^ 



lea Lett. III. Reasons for Sestramt. 

ed> concerniog the receipt and vs^ea- 
diture of the borrower. Bat even 
supposing a man's dispositioB to pro- 
digality to be ever so well ktiowD, 
there are always eaongh to be fband, 
to whom anch a disposition would be 
rather an ioducemeat than an <i»bjec- 
tion, so long as they were satisfied 
. with the security. Every body knows 
the advantage to be made io case of 
mortgage, by foreclosing or forcing a 
sale: and that this advantage is not 
uncommonly looked out for, will, I 
believe, hardly be doubted by any 
«ne, who has had any occasion to ob- 
serve the conrse of bnstness in the 
court of Chancery. 

Id short, so long as a prodigal has 
any thing to pledge, or to dispose of, 
whether in possession, or even in re- 
version, whether of a certain or even 
of a contingent nature, I see not, 

Prevention of Prodigality.- 38 

how he can receive the smallest beaoe- 
£t, from any laws that .are, or can be 
made to fix the rate of interest. For» 
suppose the Jaw to be efficacious as 
far as it goes^ and that the prodigal 
can find none of those monsters called 
tisuriers to deal with him^ does he lie 
quiet? No such thing; he ^oes on 
end gets the money he wants» by sd- 
ling his interest instead of borrow* 
ing. He goes on, I say: for if he. has 
prudence enough to stop him apy 
where, he is not that sort of man^ 
whom it can be worth while for the law 
to attempt stopping by such meansL 
It is plain enough then, that to a 
prodigal thus circumstanced, the law 
cannot be-of any service ; on the con? 
trary , it may, and in many :cases must^ 
be of disservice to him, by denying 
him the option of a resource, which, 
how disadvantageous soever, could 




24 Lett, III. Reasons for Restraint. 

not well have proved more so^ but 
would naturally have proved less so, 
than those which it leaves still open 
to him. But of this hereafter. 

I now come to the only remaining 
class of prodigals, viz. those who have 
nothing that can be called a security to 
offer. These, I should think, are not 
more likely to get money upon an ex- 
traordinary rate of interest, than an or* 
dinary one. Persons who either feel, 
or find reasons for pretending to feel, 
a friendship for the borrower, can not 
take of him more than the ordinary 
rate of interest : persons who have no 
such motive for lending him, will not 
lend him at all. If they know him 
for what he is^ that will prevent them 
of course: ami e^n though they 
should know nothing of him by any 
other circumstance, the very circum- 
stance of his not being able to find a 


Preveniion of Prodigality. 25 

friend to trust him at the highest or- 
'dinary rate, will be sufficient reason to 
a stranger for looking upon him as a 
man, who, in the judgment of his 
friends, is not likely to pay. 

The way that prodigals run into 
debt, after they have spent their sub- 
stance, is, I take it, by borrowing of 
their friends and acquaintance, at or* 
dinary interest, or mx)re commonly at 
no interest^ small sums, such as each 
man may be content to lose, or be 
ashamed to ask real security for; and 
^s prodigals have generally an exten- 
sive acquaintance ( extensive acquaint- 
ance being at once the cause and effect 
of prodigality), the sum total of the 
money a man may thus find means to 
squander, may be considerable, tho' 
^ach sum borrowed may, relatively to 
the circumstances of the lender, have 
)been inconsiderable. This I take to 

c be 

86 Lett. III. Reasons for 

he the race which prodigals, who have 
spent their all, run at present, under 
the present system of restraining laws: 
and this, and no other, I take it, would 
be the race they would run^ were those 
laws out of the way. 

Another consideration there is, I 
think, which will compleat your con* 
viction,'if it was not compleat be* 
fore^ of the inefficacy of these laws, 
as to the putting any sort of restraint 
upon prodigality. This is, that there 
is another set of people from whom 
prodigals get what they want, and al- 
ways will get it, so long as credit lasts, 
in spite of all laws against high in* 
terest; and, should they find it neces- 
sary, at an expense more than equal 
to an excess of interest they might 
otherwise have to give. I mean the 
tradesmen who deal in the goods they 
"Want Every body knows it is much 


L"3Ji J^^'y" J* __". _-L 

JPrevention qf Prodigality. 27 

easier to get goods than mone^. PeOf 
pie trust goods upon much slenderer 8e» 
ourity than they do money; it is very 
natural they should do so: ordinary 
profit of trade upon the whole capi- 
tal employed in a man's trade, ev0n 
after the expense of warehouse*rent^ 
journeymen's wages, and other such. ^ 
general charges, are taken into the 
account, and set against it, is at least 
equal to double interest; say 10 per . 
cent. Ordinary profit upon any par- 
ticular parcel of goods must there^ 
fore be a great deal more, say at least 
triple interest, 15 per cent.: in the 
way of trading, then, a man can a& 
ford to be at least three times as ad>> 
venturous, as he can in the way of 
lending, and with equal prudenoe. 
So long, then, as a man is looked 
upon as one who will p^y,* he 't^aa 
much easier get the goods he wants, 

c SI than 

98 Lett. III. Reasons far ReslrainL 

than he could the money to buy them 
with^ though he were content to give 
for it twice, or even thrice the ordinary 
rate of interests 

Supposing any body> for the sake 
of extraordinary gain^ to be willing 
to run the risk of supplying him, aU 
though they did not look upon his 
personal security to be equal to that 
of another man, and for the sake of 
the extraordinary profit to run the ex« 
traordinary risk; in the trader, in 
short in every sort of trader whom he 
was accustomed to deal with in his 
solvent days, he sees a person who 
may accept of any rate of profit, 
without the smallest danger from any 
laws that are, or can be made against 
usury. How idle, then, to think of 
stopping a man from making six, or 
seven, or eight per cent, interest, 
vrhen» if he chuses to run a risk pro- 



Prevention of Prodigality. 89 

portionable, he may in this way make 
thirty or forty per cent, or any ratd 
you please. And as to the prodigal, 
if he cannot get what he wants upon 
these terms^ what chance is there of 
his getting it upon any terms^ sup- 
posing the }aws against usury to be 
away ? This then is another way, in 
which, instead of serving, it injures 
him, by narrowing his option, and 
driving him from a market which 
might have proved less disadvantage- 
ous, to a more disadvantageous one. 

As far as prodigality, then, is con* 
cerhed, I must eonfess, I cannot see 
the use of stopping the current of ex- 
penditure in this way at the fosset, 
when there are so many unpreventa- 
ble ways of letting k run out at the 

Whether any harm is done to so- 
ciety, upon the whole, by letting so 


J50 Lett. III. Beasons for Restraint. 

much money drop at ooce out of the 
pockets of the prodigal, who would 
hare gone on wasting it, into the till 
of the frugal tradesman, who will lay 
it up, is not worth the inquiry for 
the present purpose : what is plain is, 
that, so lar as the saving the pro- 
digal from paying at an extraordinary 
rate for what he gets to spend, is the 
object of the law, that object is not 
«t all promoted, by 6xing the rate of 
interest upon money borrowed. Oa 
the contrary, if the law has any ef- 
fect, it runs, counter to that object: 
tioce, were he to borrow, it would 
only he, in, as far as ,he could borrow 
at a rate inferior to that at which 
Otherwise he would be obliged to buy, 
Preventiog his borrowing at an extra- 
rate, may have the' effect of increasing 
l)is distress, but cannot have the effect 
of lesseniug it : allowing his bCtrrowing 


Prevention of Prodigality. 91 

at such a rate» might have the effect 
of lessening his distress, but could not 
have the effect of increasing it. 

To put a stop to prodigality, if in- 
deed it be worth while, I know but 
of one effectual course thai can be 
taken, in addition to the incompleat 
and insufficient courses at present 
pisacticable, and that is, to put the 
convicted prodigal under an inierdicty 
as was practised formerly among the: 
Romans, and is still practised among 
the French, and other nations who* 
have taken the Roman law for the 
ground-work of their own. Bot to 
discuss the expediency, or sketch out. 
the details of such an institution, be* 
longs not to the present purpose. 

58 . Lett. IV. Reasons for Restraint 


Reasons for Restraint. — Protection of 


Besides prodigah^ there are 
three other classes of persons^ and 
but three^ for whose security I can 
conceive these restrictive laws to have 
been designed. I mean the indigent^ 
the rashly enterprizing^ and the sim- 
ple : those whose pecuniary necessities 
may dispose them to give an interest 
above the ordinary rate^ rather than 
hot have it, and those who, from rash- 
ness, may be disposed to venture upon 
giving such a rate, or from careless- 
ness combined with ignorance, may 
be disposed to acquiesce in it. 


Protection of Indigence. 33 

In speaking of these three different 
classes of persons, I must beg leave to 
coiisider one of them at a time : and 
accordingly, in speaking of the^ indi>- 
gent, I must consider indigence in the 
first place as untinctured with simpli- 
city. On this occasion, I may sup- 
pose, and ought to suppose, no parti- 
cular defect in a man's judgment, or 
his temper^ that should mislead him, 
more than the ordinary run of men. 
He knows what is his interest as 
well as they do, and is as well dis^ 
posed and able to pursue it as they are. 

I have already intimated^ what I 
think is undeniable, that there are 
no one or two or other limited num- 
ber of rates of interest, that can be 
equally suited to the unlimited num- 
ber of situations, in respect of the de- 
gree oi exigency y in which a man is li- 
able to find himself :. insomuch- that 

C3 to 

34 Lett. IV. Seasons for Restraint 

to the situation of a man, who by the 
use of money can make for example 
11 per cent., six per cent, is as well 
adapted, as 5 per cent, is to the situ* 
ation of him who can make but 10 ; 
to that of him who can make 12 per 
cent, seven, and so on. So, in the case 
of his wanting it to save himself from 
a loss, (which is that which is most 
likely to be in view under the name 
of exigency J if that loss would amount 
to 1 1 per cent. 6 per cent, is as well 
adapted to his 'situation, as 5 per 
cent, would be to the situation of 
him, who had but a loss amounting 
to ten per cent, to save himself from 
by the like means. And in any case, 
though, in proportion to the amount 
of the loss, the rate of interest were 
even so great, as that the clear saving 
should not amount to more than one 
per cent, or any fraction per cent, yet 


Protection of Indigence. 9& 

so long as it amounted to any thingj^ 
he would be just so much the better 
for borrowings even on such compa* 
ratively disadvauti^eous terms. If^ 
instead of gain^ we put any other 
kind of benefit or advantage — if^ in- 
stead of loss> we put any other kind 
of mischief or inconvenience^ of equal 
Talue> the result will be the same. 

A man is in one of these situations^ 
suppose, in which it would be for his 
lidvantage to borrow^ But his cir« 
cumstances are such, that it would 
pot be worth any body's while to lend 
him, at the highest rate which it is 
proposed the law should allow i ia 
short) he cannot get it at that rate. If 
he thought he catdd get it at that rate^, 
most surely he would not give a 
higher : he may be trusted for that ^ 
£[>r by the supposition he has nothing 
defective ia his understandings But 


36 Lett. IV. Reasons for Restraint. 

the fact is, he cannot get it at that 
lower rate. At a higher rate, how- 
ever, he could get it : and at that 
rate, though higher, it would be 
worth his while to get it : so he 
judges, who has nothing to hinder 
him from judging right ; who has 
every motive and every means for 
forming a right judgment ; who has 
every motive and every means for 
informing himself of the circum- 
stances, upon which rectitude of judg- 
ment, in the case in question, de- 
pends, The legislator^ who knows 
nothing, nor can know any thing, of 
any one of all these circumstances, 
who knows nothing at all about the 
matter, comes and says to him — ^^ It 
signifies nothing ; you shall not 
have the money : for it would be 
** doing you a mischief to let you 
*« borrow it upon such terms." — 


Protection vf Indigence. 97 

And this out of prudence and lov- 
ing-kindness ! — ^There may be worse 
Cruelty: but can there be greater 

The folly of those who persist, as 
is supposed, without reason, in not 
taking advice, has been niuch expa* 
tiated upon. But the folly of those 
who persist, without reason, in forcing 
their advice upon others, has been 
but little dwelt upon, though it is, 
perhaps, the more frequent, and the 
more flagrant of the two. It is not 
often that one man is a better judge 
for another, than that other is for 
himself, even in cases were the ad- 
viser will take the trouble to make 
himself master of as many of the ma- 
terials for judging, as are within the 
reach of the person to be advised. 
But the legislator is not, can not be, 
in the possession of any one of these 


.. ,.\ 

38 Lett. IV. Reasons for Restraint. 

niateria]s.~*What private^ can be 
equal to such public folly ? 

I should now speak of the enta^ 
prizing class of borrowers : those^. 
whOj when characterized by a single 
term^ are distinguished by the unfa« 
vourable appellation of projectors:^ 
but in what I shall have to say of 
them. Dr. Smith, I begin to foresee^ 
will bear so material a part, that 
when I come to enter upon that sub« 
jeot, I think to take my leave of you^ 
and address myself to him^ 

' •" , 

\ 4 

Protection <if ShnpUfiity' ^ 


Reasons for Restraint — Protection of 


I Come, lastly, to the case of the 
simple. Here, in the first place, I 
think I am by this time entitled to 
observe, that no simplicity, short of 
absolute idiotism, can cause the in* 
dividual to make a more groundless 
judgment than the legislator, who 
in the circumstances above stated, 
should pretend to confine him to any 
given rate of interest, would have 
made for him. 

Another consideration, equally con* 
elusive, is, that were the legislator's 
judgment ever so much superior to 
the individuaFs, how weak soever 


40 Lett, V, Reasons for Restraint. 

that may be, the exertion of it on this 
occasion can never be any otherwise 
than useless, so long as there are so ma- 
ny similar occasions, as there ever must 
be, where the simpUcity of the indi- 
vidual is equally likely to make him 
a sufferer, and on which the legisla- 
tor cannot interpose with effect, nor 
has ever so much as thought of 

Buying goods with money, or upon 
credit, is the business of every day : 
borrowing money is the business, on- 
ly, of some particular exigency, which, 
in comparison, can occur but seldom. 
Regulating the prices of goods in ge- 
neral would be an endless task, and no 
legislator has ever been weak enough 
to think of attempting it. And sup- 
posing he were to regulate the prices, 
what would that signify for the pro- 
tection of simplicity, unless he were 

Protection of Simplicity. 4 1 

to regulate also the quantum of what 
each man should buy? Such quan- 
tum is indeed regulated^ or rather 
means are taken to prevent buying 
altogether ; but in what cases ? la 
diose only where the weakness is ad- 
judged to have anrived at such a pitich, 
as to render a man utterly unqualified 
for the management of his affairs : in^ 
shorty when it has arrived at the lengtl^ 

of idiocy. 

• But in what degree soever a man^s 
weakness may expose him to imposi- 
tion, he stands much more exposed 
to it, in the way of buying goods, 
than in the way of borrowing money. 
To be informed, beforehand, of the 
ordinary prices of ail the sorts of 
things, a man may have occasion to 
buy, may be a task of considerable 
variety and extent. To- be informed 
of the ordinary rate of interest, is to 


42 'Lett. V. Seasons for Restraint. 

be informed of one single fact, too in- 
teresting not to have attracted atten- 
tion, and too simple to have escaped 
the memory. A few per cent, en- 
bancement upon the price of goods, 
is a matter that may easily enough 
pass unheeded ^ but a single per cent, 
beyond the ordinary interest of money, 
is a stride more conspicuous and start- 
ling, than many per cent, upon the 
price of any kind of goods. 

Eren in regard to subjects, which, 
by their importance would, if any, 
justify a regulation of their price, 
such as for instance land, 1 question 
whether there ever was an instance 
where, without some such ground as, 
on the one side fraud, or suppression 
of facts necessary to form a judgment 
of the value, or at least ignorance of 
such facts, on the other, a bargain was 
rescinded, merely because a man had 

Protection of Simplicity. 43 

sold too cheap, or bought too dear.^ 
Were I to take a fancy to give a 
hundred years purchase instead of 
thirty, for a piece of land, rather 
than not have it, I don't think there 
is any court in England, or indeed 
any where else^ that would interpose 
to hinder me^ much less to punish 
the seller with the loss of three tifnes 
the purchase money, as in the case of 
usury. Yet when I had got my piece 
of land, and paid my money, repent- 
ance, were the law ever so well dis- 
posed to assist me, might be unavail- 
ing: for the seller might have spent 
the money, or gone off with it. But, 
in the case of borrowing money, it is 
the borrower always, who, according 
to the indefinite, or short term for 
which money is lent, is on the safe 
side: any imprudence he may have 
committed with regard to the rate 


44 Lett. V. Reasons for RestrainL 

of interest, may be corrected at anjr 
time : if I find I have given too high 
an interest to one man, I have no 
inore to do than to borrow of another 
at a lower rate, and pay off the fi^rst : 
if I cannot find any body to lend me 
at a lower, there cannot be a more 
certain proof that the first was not in: 
reaUty too high. But of this hereafter.K 

■» 'V 

Mischitfs (^ anti-itsurious Lawf. 45 


Mischiefs of the anti-usurious Lotos. 

JN the preceding letters, I have ex* 
Binined all the modes I can think of> 
in which the restraints, imposed by 
the laws against nsnry, can have been 
fancied to be of service. 

I hope it appears by this time, that 
there are no ways in which those laws 
can do any good. Bat there are se»> 
vera], in which they can not bat do 

The first I shall mention, is that of 
precluding so many people, altoge- 
ther, from the getting the money they 
stand in need of, to answer their re- 
^spective exigencies^ Think what a 


46 Lett. VI. Mischitfs qf the 

distress it would produce, were the 
liberty of borrowing denied to every 
. body : denied to those who have such 
security to offer, as renders the rate 
of interest^ they have to offer, a suffi- 
cient inducement, for a man who has 
money, to trust them with it. 'Just 
that same sort of distress is produced, 
by denying that liberty to so many 
people, whose security, though, if 
they were permitted to add some- 
thing to that rate, it would be suffi- 
cient, is rendered insufficient by their 
being denied that liberty. Why the 
misfortune, of not being possessed of 
that arbitrarily exacted degree of se- 
curity, should be made a ground for 
subjecting a man to a hardship, which 
is not imposed on those who are free 
from that misfortune, is more than I 
can see. To discriminate the former 
class from the latter, I can see but 


antUusurious Laws. 47 

this one circuiiisd»nce, viz. that their 
necessity is grepiter. This it is by the 
very supposition: for were it not^tbey 
could not ,be^ what they are supposed 
to he> willing to give more to be re« 
Itemed itovk it* In this point of view 
then^ the sole tendency of the law is^ 
to heap distress upon distress* 

A second mischi^ is, that of r^i* 
dering the terms so much the worse^ 
to a multitude of those, whose circum* 
stances exempt them from being pre^ 
eluded altogether from getting the 
money they have occasion for* In 
this case, the mischief, though nece9<» 
sarily less intense than in the other, is 
much more palpable and conspicuous* 
Those who cannot borrow may get 
what they want, so long as they have 
any thing to sell. But while, out of 
loving^ki0dness> or whatsoever other 
motiv«> the law precludes a man from 


48 Lett> VI. Mischufs vf the 

borrM>ingy Dpbn terms whidh it deemsi 
too disadvantageous^ it does not pre^ 
dude him from selling, upon any^ 
terms, howsoever disadvantageous. 
Every body knows that forced sales 
are attended with a loss : and, to tfaiii 
loi5s> what would be deemed a most 
extravagant interest bears in general 
no proportion^ When a man's move- 
ables are taken in execution, they 
are, I believe, pretty well sold, if, 
after all expenses paid, the produce 
amounts to two-thirds of what it 
would cost to replace them. Id this 
way the providence and loving-kind- 
ness of the law costs him 33 per cent, 
and no more, supposing, what is sel- 
dom the case, that no more of the ef- 
fects are taken than what is barely 
necessary to make up the money due. 
If, in her negligence and weakness, 
she were to suffer him to ofier 11 per 


atai'tisuritms Laws. . 49^ 

cent, per annam for forbearance, it 
would be three years before .he paid 
what .he is charged with, in the « first 
ifistance, by her wisdom. 

Sach being the kindness done by 
tibe law to the owner of moveablesj let 
lis see how it fares with him . who . has^ 
an interest in immovables. Before 
the late war, SO years purchase for 
land might be reckoned, I^ think it is 
pretty, well agreed, a medium price. 
DuriQg the distress produced, by the 
war, lands, which Jt was (necessary 
should be . sold, were sold , at v 20, ISi 
nay, I believe, in some instances^ 
even so low as. 15 years purchase^ If 
I do not misrecollect, I remember in-^ 
stances of Jands put iip to public auc«. 
tion, for which nobody bid so high ai^ 
fifteen. In > many instances, villas^ 
which had been ' bought before the 
war, or at the beginning of it, and, ii%; 

D the 

4M) Lett, VI. Misebirfs qf the 

the totervftlj bad been improTed rathcs 
ilMt nupairtdi sold for less than balft 
or levett tbe qttftrter^ of wbs^ they. had 
been bought for* I dwo not here for 
my p«ft^ pfotctad to be e^mU but on 
Ibis pitege^ :^iifxn H w<Mrlli tfieir no- 
ti€e» Mr. SkintriT^ or Mr, Christie^ 
€0«iid facBiifb, rery iustfuctife notes* 
filrenty: years purchas^i instead of 
ikkty, I miay be allowed to take> at 
least for illhstratton. An tetaite them 
of 1001. a year^ dear of taxes, was 
defised to a mati, ^barged, suppose^ 
vHth 15001. With interest till the money 
ahoidd be paid; Five per cent. iote«> 
ite»t» tfa» utmost which could be ac* 
ee|ited from the owner, did not an^rwer 
the jncumbrancer's purpose: he chose 
to have the money. But 6 per cent, per* 
baps, wonld have answeredihis purpoM> 
if bot, most certiuoly it would have an- 
awerbd th6 parpoee of somebody else : 



^ rimftitod^ them all oloDg wm^ 
i4fti9se piSirposes Wfefre^aninfered by five 
p^ mkt, f hi^ Wir %^M^ I thinks 
^em& ftAs t tlM^ ^dcffeeiation of the 
iMn% dF liihd 4ii nM tadte place i«<^ 
ift^dfiately: bittfds^ ^M th6T>thar hSUMJ^. 
neithi^r did> it iiiimedfateljr recoTer ita 
fbhli^ price ^ptm thepeace^ if indeed, 
it^has e^fl yet recovered 'it» we mxy 
ptit seven yeiiri^ f(^ the time^ daring:: 
w&libh it would be^' nukvi^ advaAtageom. 
t6 pay thift e^raordinfary rate of in<» 
terest than^ sdl the ladd^ and durii^ 
which; accordifigly, ttKli^ eac^aordiiMry 
rifite of interest wotild hav« had to tma^ 
One per cent, for setefn year8> is not 
qnite 6f equal worth to seven per onit.. 
the firiit years say^ however^ that it !&< 
The estate/ which before the war was 
worth thirty years purchase, that is 
SOOOl. and which the devisor had 
given to the devisee for that value^ 

D 2 ' being 

^82* Lett. VI. Mischiefs ^ the 

lading put up to sale, fetched but S^ 
years purchase, -20001. At the end' 
Qf'tbat period it would have, fetched 
its original value, SOOOl. Compare,* 
then, the situation of the devisee at 
the 7 years end, unc^errthe law, with* 
what it would have been; without the 
law.^ In the former case, the land sel- 
ling for 20 : years purchase, i. e. 
20001. what he would have, after 
paying tbe 15001? is dOOL; which, 
with' the interest of thaisum, at 5 per- 
cent for seven- years, viz. 175K 
makes, at the end of that seven years, 
€7^1« In the other case, paying 6 
per cent. ^ on the 1500). that is 901. 
a year, and receiving all that time the. 
rent of the Jand^ viz, lOOK he would 
have had,' at the seven years end, the; 
amount of the remaining ten pound- 
duringthat period, that is 70l. in ad^, 
ditidn to his : 10001.— 675. substract^ 



Mhtt'tisurious Laws. H^ 

«d from I076I. Ieave3 SQSt. Thit 
3951. then, is- what he loi^s out of 
10701. almost 37 per cent, of his ca- 
pital, by the loving-kindness of the 
law. Make the calculations, and you 
will find, that, by preventing him froni 
borrowing the money at 6 per cent, in^^ 
terest, it makes him nearly as much a 
sufferer as if he had borrowed it at ten: 
What I have said hitherto is con- 
fined to the case of those whoiiave pre« 
sent value to give» for the money they 
stand in need of. If they have no such 
value, then, if they succeed in pur- 
chasing assistance upon any terms, it 
must be in breach of the law; th6ir 
lenders exposing themselves to its * ven- 
geance; for I speak not here of the ac- 
eidental case, of its being so construct- 
ed as to be liable to evasion. But^ even^ 
in this case, the mischievoils influence 
of the law still pursues them; aggora-* 
• 1 vating 

$i LetT^ VI. Mischief qfthe 

fiitipg the yeiy miscl^ef it pretendf 
to waaeAf, . Tti<Ni||^ it be inefllcar 
cious in tbe way \n whicb the legt«}»<- 
IMh* vrifibes <o see it e^cac^uB, it is ff» 

ieadoiifi m tiie way 9ppQsite Iq that In 
vRFbicb be w^ld wish t© fee it lo, Tbe 
c^cA of ;it (i&u ^ mm tbn rfit^. of in* 
terert, highei: ttiao jt v^4 fep Qtb*rr 
w^e> aiKt tbat in fcW'9 ?ri^«* {9 liba 
fiirat p)aee» ,a maci miMt^ i^ omiwon 
pr«cleiM>9, .m J>u Sipitb plweR^tti, 
nalc^^ paint 1^ bieipg inclewi^lM* ml 
e»ly for wbfttftoevier. extraoi^ifiAry ffifijk; 
it is that bQfPfi«i ip4?pepdeatly of tifee 
law^ l>ut for the v^y rtisk oqca^one^ 

by tbe law: be must be infured^ as it 

vere> agaw3t the law« Tb^s caiiM! 
would ppesatet w^r^ there even as mwy 
persons ready to lend itppn tbe illegal 
nte^ a^ upon tbe legal Snt this is ppt 
tbe case : a ^'^i tma^v of persens 
ase^ of (0ttnsie> 4fiveQ ontof tbisoem^ 

^ petition. 


petition^ l}y th^ da«g«r pf ^e l>«9ir 
E(B6S, and 990tber gr^at wiwfatM, h$ 
the cUsrepiite wbkh* linger opir^r of 
theie pi^hihiti^llMrs 0/ olhdrwJMti Itwf 
liMiten^ itflrif i«IP«a Hie nmne of vsmueep^ 
So mftoy {)er8ons» 4hdnifcd^» l^Aiim 
diiren oat of th^ tradfp if ^^ppttis Ml 
Ibis hraacbt *a» U mitst ^p&m»xSif. iH 
emrjr otbeh, tb«4^ fcbos» wbo refiieiti 
b«re «fae ie^ Ap wiibrtoU ^bem fitHi 
advanoag !th6ir 4mm83 and i^botft 
confederattug (for ' }% miiati 1^ •iUtovdi 
that oonfedei^jr hi Midi m CH^s^ 4« 
plainly iint>09siUe) etch, one wjU^ed 
it easier td push bis ndfiantage up £0 
any given degree of ig^cditbitiM^oyj Ui^Ml 
he would, if there wexfe a greater iinoM 
ber of persons of the fiame stamp <to 
te^tt tp. 

As to the case^ i/irhere the laiv is M 
worded 9S to be liable Ko be eraded; 
in this ciuie k; is partly inefficaciam 


i6 Lett. VI. Mischiefs ef the 

and nugatory^ aiid partly miscbievdus^ 
It is nugatory^ as to all such> whose 
confidence of its being so is perfect: 
it is miscbievous, as before, in regard 
to all such who fail of possessing that 
perfect confidence. If the borrower 
can find nobody at aH who has confi- 
dence enough to take advantage of 
the flaw» he stands precluded from all 
assistance^ as before : and, though he 
should, yet the lender's terms must 
aecessarily run the higher, in propor- 
tion to what his confidence wants of 
being perfect. It is not likely that it 
should be perfect : it is still less likely 
that he should acknowledge it so to 
be y it is not likely, at least as ' mat* 
ters stand in England^ that the worst- 
penned law made for this purpose 
should ' be altogether destitute of ef- 
fect : and while it has any, that effect^ 
we see, must be i|i one way or other 

nntUusurious Laws. 57 

» , , - . If » 

I have already hinted at the dbix4 

pute, the ignominy, the reproach;; 
which prejudice^ the cause and the 
effect of these restrictive laws^ has 
heaped upon that perfectly innocent 
and even meritorious class of men» 
who, not more for their own advan- 
tage than to the relief of the distresses 
of their neighbour, may have ven- 
tured to break through these restraints. 
It is certainly not a matter of indif- 
rerence, that a class of persons, who, 
in every point of view in which their 
conduct can be placed, whether in re- 
lation to their own interest, or in re- 
lation to that of the persons whom 
they have to deal with, as well on the^ 
score of prudence, as on that of be- 
lieficence,' (and of what use is even' 
benevolence, but in as far as it is 
productive of beneficence?) deserve* 
{yraise riEither than censnn^, should t>e^ 
' D 3 classed 

mm ^ ^'■' '^ 

^«/*<>* ■*., 


0$ Lett.VL Mischief s qf the 

classed with tdiie ajbaodoned .wd pro- 
fligate, and loaded with a degree of 
io&niy, which is due to those wAf 
whose conduct is in its tendency the 
iVEiQst; opposite to their pwn. 

This wfferiQg/V it may be said, 
having ah^eady h^en taken acconnt 
*^ of, is not to -foe brought to account a 
" second time : ihejare aware, as you 
^* yourself observe, of this inconv^ 
*' nienoe, and have taken care to get 
*^ su9h amends for it, as they themselves 
*^ look upon as sufficient." True : but 
is it sure that the compensation, such 
as it is, will always, in the event,, 
have proved a sufficient one ? Is theri^ 
|io room here for miscalculation } 
Hay there not be unexpected, un* 
looked^for incidents, sufficient to tjurn 
into. bitterness the utmost satisfaction 
which the difference of pecuniary 
emolument x^ould afford? For who 


4^1. . J ■ ^-»-' i 

fom u» to the «fo^ of l^»t Mipcli»fstU 
ble train of icoqwqil^n^ that ai^f 
Jiable to enao? from tbie Vm o£ rfif^ 
tation ? Who cafi f^om * t\m s^j^p 
of infamy? 4t any p^tejr t^s f|i^ioI« 
of mischief if not a^ji addition initf 
quantity to the others above-»notice<|> 
19 at )ea8t distinct from thein jp fM 
nature^ and ,as suqk oaght i^t 't^ hf 
overlooked. ■ , f 

Nor is the evfeot of t|i^ esif^cutij^ 
of thp law by apy means m yn/^- 
amp^ one : several ^ucJI^ 9t different 
^me6» haye ^len within my nQti^» 
Xhen comes aibsffln^wp^dyjkio^ : loff 
pf character^ $md forfejltuj^y nQt qf 
three times the ei^tra-iitferest;, whiich 
formed the porofijt of the offeQoe^ Jbk|t 
pf three times th^ principaU vhicl^ 
gitve occasion to it** 

* See Introjbelkm te*Ae IViaciplet oTMcoiftb 
aad LegiabiMo, 4to. 1789. Cb. 14. On die fmj 
postion between punifibments and ofifencea. 


^ Lett. Vh Jtischie/s the 

- The last article I have to mentioJk 
\n the account of mischief^ is, the cor- 
ruptive influence, exercised by these 
laws, on the morals of the people; 
by the pains they take, and eannot 
i>ut take, to give birth to treachery 
end ingratitude. To purchase a pos- 
sibility of being enforced, the law net* 
ther has found, nor, what is very ma- 
terial, must it ever hope to find, iit 
this case, any other expedient, than 
that of hiring a man to break his en- 
gagement, and to crush the hand that 
has been reached out to help him. Iii 
the case of informers in general, there 
iias been no troth pKghted, nor bene6t 
received. In the case of real crimi- 
iiafc< invited by reward^ to inform 
agair^t^ accomplices, it is by such 
breach of faith that society is held 
together) as in other cases by the 
iobs^T^^nce of it. In the case of real 


. - • • 

anti-usurious Laxm. *^i 

crimes^ in proportion as their mis- 
chievoustiess is apparent^ what can not 
but be manifest even to the criminal, 
is, that it is by the adherence to his 
engagement that he would do An in- 
jury to society, and, that by the breach 
of such engagement, instead of doing 
jnischief he is doing good: in the 
case of usury this is what no man call 
^now, and what one can scarcely think 
it possible for any man, who, in the 
character of the borrower, has been 
coticerned in siich a transaction, td 
imagine. He knew that, even in his 
own judgment, the engagement Was 
a beneficial one to himself, or he 
would not have entered into it : and 
nobody else but the lender is affected 
by it. 


m ^ffifmff 


Mffi/cacs of arOi-uiUPious L0W^. 

Before I qn\t altogether the con- 
«ideratio{i ^i ihe cMe m whicb a Uvr> 
ms4e for tibe j^nrpose of liimttog tJne 
i!alie of ioteseat, may be tnefficacioot 
Jixrith regard to that end, I calnnot for*- 
ih«W taking Mine further Botke of a 
passage already alluded to ef Dr. 
JSmUh's : beeattBe, io my apprehen* 
mm, tluit paai^ge seems to throw upoa 
Ibe ^ub^t€lt a degree of oheoonty^ 
which I coiild wiah to aee cleared up^ 
in a future i^liliiou of Ihat yalnafble 

** No law,'* says he*, ** can reduce 
'^ the common rate of interest below 


• B. ii. G. 10. ToL ii. p. 45. edit. 8to. 1784 

anfi-usurms L^m- S$ 

^^ tl»tf Ipwest ordimr/ fpciirfcft rMe, ^1 
'^ the tiqoe whep Ibat law: wa^ .utadfiu 
«' NotwitlMtapdiDg tlie ^)pt tff X766t 
by whi<;h the Fre<ioh }^xs\^ §X^ 
tompM tp redpce l4w ri4« pf ipte^ 
*/ rest fcQBi ^va tfl ficMfrpor^ceDt., q^ 
*' n^ c<Mitiaiie4 to be lf»ot )b Fn^ioe 
<* At five peir qeot. th^ law beiog evaded 
*' ip several different wpy^f " 

As to the general positi^n^ \i ^H 
be, so much, apeordiflig to me^ ibhcf 
better : but JL muiSt confess I 4o npt 
4see why this should be the ^case. It 
is for the purpose of proving the truth 
of this genial ppsit^oQ, that the finQt 
of the iaeffipAcy <>f this attempt seems 
to be adduced : for no other pr^eof 
is adduced but this. But^ taj^ing the 
fact for granted, I do w>t see how it 
can be sufficient %o support the. is- 
fenence. Thelamr, we are^old^tii^ 

same time> was evafjled: Imt we are 


€i Lett.ViI. Efficacsof 

fabt toid how it came to be open to 
crasion. It might be owing to a 
particular defect in the penning of 
that particular law : or, what comes 
to the same thing, in the provisions 
made for carrying it into execution. 
In either case, it affords no support to 
the general position : nor can that 
position be a just one, unless it were 
so in the case where every provision 
had been made, that could be made, 
for giving efBcacy to the law. For 
the position to be true, the case must 
be, that the law would stilt be broken, 
even after every means of what can 
properly be called evasion had been 
removed. True or untrue, the po- 
rtion is certainly not self-evident 
enough to be received without proof: 
yet nothing is adduced in proof of it, 
but the fact above-noticed, which we 
see amounts to no such thing. What 


' dnti-usurUms Laws. 65 

Ss niore^ I should not expect to find 
it capable of proof. I do not see^ 
what it is> that should render the law 
Incapable of <^ reducing the comihoa 
^^ rate of interest below the lowest 
•** ordinary market rate/* but such a 
state of things^* such a cctmbi nation of 
circumstances, as should afford obsta* 
cles equally powerful, or nearly so, 
to the efficacy of the Uvir against all 
higher rates. For destroying, the law's 
efficacy altogether, I know of nothing 
that could serve, but a resolution on 
the part of all persons any way privy 
not to inform : but by such a reso* 
lution any higher rate is just as ef^ 
fectually protected as any lower one. 
Suppose the resolution, strictly speak- 
ing, univer^l, and the law innst in'alt 
instances be equally inefficaciotus ; all 
rates of interest equally free ; and 
-the state of men's dealings in this way 


66 Lett.VIL Efficacy of 

jufit what it wDidd be, were there no 
law at all upon the suttl^ot. But m 
this cane^ the position^ in as fwriui it 
limitB the ineffioaoy of the law 40 thoM 
rates which are below the ^' lowest or* 
f'dinary market rate/' \h not true. 
For 1117 part» I cannot coMeive hp«r 
any such unirepsal resolution imw14 
have been mai|Aained» or i$oiM ^^ 
be maintained^ without an open eopt^ 
cert, and as open a rebellion iigainst 
government ; nothing of iirhifsh 40rt 
appears to have taken pl^ce ; and« 
as t^ any particular oonfederaciesj 
they are as capable iof . protecting any 
higher rates against the probibitioo^ 
as any lower ones. 

Thus much indeed must be admit* 
ted, that the kfw rate in questiooj vi«. 
that which was the lowest ordixmry 
market rate immediately before the 
making of the lawi is likely to come 


i— * 

anti'USfiriaus Lam* 67 

in for the protection of the public 
t^nst the law, more frequently thm 
9oy other rate. That mu^t be the 
o«se on two accounts: fyst, because 
by beiug of the ^vqi^wr of ^he PvdU 
nary raties^ i^ wai, by the ^lyppos^n, 
awre. freqoepifc thafi apy es^ordjnary 
oniBs : «ecQ^dly, beoaufe the disrepute 
aniies^d to the idefi pf u«iiiry, a for^ 
which mi^ hftve pora or less ^^ 
tacy ip ^iplnding^ frcMp the prD|;eo« 
tian l^^ve spok^i pf^ sucb etkrwr^ 
dtfwry rfitesn qiain9t ^^l be wppos^ 
10 uppfy it«^> ar at Jiei^t 90t in equal 
daffi^^ to thif low iind ordinary jc«te« 
A l^ider has ^^ertftioly le^ to stop him 
from takiiiig a rate, which inay:b^ 
taken without disrepute, than fxqm 
tAkipg que, which It man pould uot 
t«)(e withoat subjectiug himself to 
tbfit inoouveui^m^e : .uor is. it Jil^y^ 
that m^u's iiMgiaations ^pd seuMr 


68 Lett. VI r. Efficacy of 

ments should testify so sudden au ob^ 
sequiousness to the law, as to stamp 
disrepute to-daj, upon a rate of inte- 
rest to which no such accompaniment 
had stood annexed the day before. ^ 

Were I to be asked how I imagined 
the case stood, fn the particular in- 
stance referred to by Dr. Smith : 
judging from his account of it, as- 
sisted by general probabilities, I 
should answer thus: — The law^ I 
should suppose, was not so penned as 
to be altogether proof against eva-' 
sion. In many injstances, of which it 
is impossible any account should have 
been taken, it was indeed conformed 
to : in some of those instances, people 
who would have lent otherwise, ab- 
stained from lending altogether ; in 
others of those instaneesr, people lent 
their money at th6 reduced legal rate. 
In other instances again, the Jaw was 

broken : 

^ €mti'^ttsurious Laxos. . 69. 

~ • ♦ * 'I 

"broken : thiQ lenders trusting, partly, 
to expedients recurred to for evading. 
it, partly to the good faith and ho- - 
Hour of those whom they had to deal 
with-: in this clfl^s of instances it was 
naturalj for the two reasons above, 
suggested, that those where the old. 
legal rate was adhered to, should have 
been the roost numerous. FrcHn the. 
circumstance, not only of their num- 
her, but of their more direct repug-, 
uancy to the particular recent law in. 
question, thqy would naturally be the. 
most ta^en. notice of. And this, t. 
should suppose, was the foundation in 
point of fact for the Doctox^s general 
position above-mentioned,, that <^ no. 
** law can reduce the common, rate q£ 
** interest below the lowest ordinary, 
^^ market rate, at the time wheii that, 
''* law ;was made/' 

In England^ as. far as I c^n trust- 


^ Ibtt. VIL EJficaaf rf 

mj judgment and imperfect general 
lecoOection of the purport of the 
laws relative to this matter^ I shoohl 
not suppose that the above position 
would prove tme. That there is no 
snch thing as any palpable and nni* 
Tersally-notorions^ as well as nniver^- 
sally-practicable receipt for that pnr- 
pose» is manifest from the eicamples 
which^ as t have alrMdy mentioned^ 
every now and then occurj of convic- 
tioni npon these statutes. Two such 
receipts, indeed, I shall have occasion 
to touch upon presently : but they 
are either nbt obvious enough in their 
nature, or too troublesome or not ex<^ 
iensive enough in their application^ 
tt>' have despoiled the law idtogether 
of its terrore or of its preventive effi* 

In the country in which I am writ^ 
ingi the Whole system of laws on this 


<«??«SF - 

ntM^nUfff^ms X^mn 


tabject is perfectly, and very \iWgfpAj% 
ihefficadoiM^ The rale fixed by lavr 
h S per cettt. : maiijr peo]^ leiid aao* 
ney; and nobody at that latet the 
Ibweflt drdsfta#y rate^ upon the Very 
best real Beoarity, is S per eent»; 9j 
and even 10> upoii snob security^ are 
common. Sue: or seven may have 
plaee, now and tfaen^ between rda* 
tions or other particular friends : be- 
cause, now and then, a man may 
choose to make a present of one or 
two per cent* to a person whom he 
means to favour. The contract is re* 
newed from year to year t for a thou«> 
sand roubles, the borrower, in his 
written contract, obliges himself to 
pay at the end of the year one thou- 
sand and fifty. Before witnesses, he 
receives his thousand roubles; and, 
without witnesses, he immediately 
pays back his 30 roubles^ or his 40 


H Lett. VII. EJkaaf, &c. 

roables, or whatever the sum- may be, 
that is necessary to .briug the real 
rate of interest to the. rate verbally; 
agreed on. ' 

This contrivance, I take it, would... 
not do in England: but why it would, 
not, .is a question which it .would btt; 
in vain for me to pretend, at this dis- 
tance from all authorities, to discuss. 


t,ETr.VllL Virtual Usury allotoed. ^ 


Virtual Usury alhwed^ 

Having proved^ as I hope, by this 
time, the utter impropriety of the law*^ 
lianiting the rate of interest, in every 
case that can be conceived, it may be 
rather matter of curiosity, than any 
thing else, to inquire, how fhr the 
law, on this head, is consistent with ' 
itself, and with any principles upoii^ 
which it can have built. 

1. Drawing and re-drawing is a' 
practice, which it will be sufficient 
here to hint at. It is perfectly well 
known to all merchants, and may be 
so to all who are not merchants, by 
consulting Dr. Smith. In this way, 

£ he 

74 Lett.VIIL Virtual 

he has shewn how money may be, and 
has been^ taken up, at so high a rate^ 
as 13 or 14 per cent,; a rate nearly three 
times as high as the utmost which the 
law professes to allow. The extra in-* 
terest is in this case masked under the 
names of commission, and price of ex^ 
change* The commission is but small 
upon each loan, not more, I thinks 
than one half per cent. : custom having 
stretched so far but no farther, it might 
be thpught dangerous, pjerhaps, to 
venture upon any higher allowance 
tinder that name. The charge, being 
repeated a number of times in the 
course of the year, makes up in fre* 
quency what it wants in weight« The 
transaction is by this shift rendered 
more troublesome, indeed, but not 
less practicable, to such parties as are 
agreed about it. But if i^sury is good 
for merchants, I don't very well see 


Usury allotved. 75 

what should make it bad for every- 
hody else. 

2. At this distance from all the 
fountains of legal knowledge^ I will 
n6l pretend^ to say> whether the prac* 
tice of selling accepted bills at an under 
value, would hold good against all at^ 
tacks. It strikes my recollection as a 
pretty common one, and I think it 
'could not be brought under any of 
the penal statutes against usury. The 
adequateness of the consideration 
might, for ought I knoWi» be attacked 
with success, in a court of equity; 
or, perhaps, if there were sufficient 
evidence (which the agreement of the 
parties might easily prevent) by an 
auction at common law, for money had 
and received. If the practice be really 
proof against all attacks, it seems to 
afford an effectual, and pretty com- 
modious method of evading the re« 

£ S strictive 

75 Lett. Vlljr. Virtual 


aMctive IfL^ts. The only rjestilMQt |s^ 
that it requires the assistanof of a^ 
l^ird person^ a friend o£ tbe.horrftwer's^ 
4$ ^r instance : B, the real b^orrgwer^ 
wants IQOl. and finds V, a iisurer» 
who 13 iwilling to lend it to h^m^ at. 10 
pi^r cept. B. has F, a friends who h» 
npt th^ money himself to lend him^ 
but; is willing tQ stand security for 
him tQ that ainount. B. therefore 
li^aws ypon JF*, and F. accepts, a bill 
of 1001. at S per cent interest, pay- 
able at the end of a twelvemotith 
from the date. F. draws a like bill 
upon B. : each sells his bill to U. for 
fifty pound ; and it is endorsed to 27, 
Biccordingly. The 501. that F. re- 
ceives, he delivers over without any 
consideration to B. This transaction, . 
if it he a valid one, and if a man can 
find such a friend, is evidently moch 
lesft troublesome than the practice of 


■ J^>> ■ 

Usury allowed. 77 

drawing and re-drawing. And tbis^ 
if it be practicable at all^ may be 
practised by persons of any descrip** 
tion concerned or not in trade. 
Should the effect of this page be td 
snggei^t an expedient^ and that a ssifb 
and comniodious obe» for eradinfip 
the laws against usury^ to some, to 
whoitn such an expedient might not 
ciherwisd bave occtimid, it will iMt 
lie very hea?y upon my conscience^ 
The prayers of usurersj whatever efk^ 
cacy ibey may have in lightening the 
burtbeii» I hope I may lay some claim 
t6. And I think yon will not now 
wonder at my saying, that in the effi- 
cacy of such prayers I have not a whit 
less confidence, than in that of the 
prayers of any other class of men. 

One apology I shall have to plead 
at any rate; that in pointing out these 
flaws, to the individual who may be 


78 Lett.VHI. Virtual 

diflposed to creep out at tbem^ I poiiit 
them out at the same time to the legis* 
lator, in whose power it is to stop 
them up, if in his opinion they re* 
quire it. If, notwithstanding such 
opinion, he should omit to do so, the 
blan^e will lie, not on my industry^ 
but on his negligence. 

These, it may be said^ should they 
even be secure and effectual evasions^ 
are still but evasions, and, if charge- 
able upon the law at all, are charge- 
able not as inconsistencies but as over- 
sights. Be it so. Setting these aside, 
then, as expedients practiced or practi- 
cable, only behind its back, I will 
beg leave to remind you of two 
others, practised from the day of its 
birth, under its protection and before 
its face. 

The first I shall mention is pazm- 
trokmg. In this case there is the less 


^— . .^. ^i^p— ■■ ' ^ "^'— ^■■■"^r 

Usury allowed. 79 

pretence for more than ordinary in** 
terest, inasmuch as the security is, in 
this case, not only equal to> but bet- 
ter than^ what it can be in any other : 
to wit, the present possession of a 
moveable thing, of easy sale, on which 
the creditor has the power, and cer« 
tainly does not want the inclination* 
to net such price as is most for his 
^advantage. If there be a case in 
which the allowing of such extraor* 
dinary interest is attended with more 
danger than another, it must be this: 
which is so particularly adapted to 
the situation of the lowest poor* that 
is, of those who, on the score of in<i> 
digence or simplicity, pr both, arfe 
most open to imposition. This trade 
however the law, by regulating, avow-«> 
edly protects. What the rate of in^ 
tarest is, which it allows to be taken 
in this way I, I can not take upon me 





80 Lett. VIIL Virtual 

io remember: but I am moth de- 
ceived^ if it amoaats to leiB thftii 12 
fet cent, in Ithe year, and I believe it 
ttmounte to a good deal more. "Wbe* 
ther it were 18 per cent, oi^ IfllOO, I 
Ibelieve would make in practice btit 
little difference. What conmissim in ili 
libe bustndss ef dmwin^ hxA re-^raw^ 
ing, tvdrehdu^'toom is^ ib tbat dE 
pawnbioking. Whettever limits theft 
we Bjrt to the profits of ihis trade^ are 
set, I take it, not by the vigikncy e( 
the law, but, bs in the ciee of other 
trades, by the competition amongist the 
traders. Of the other regulations con«» 
tuned in the acts relative to this subject^ 
I recollect no reason to doubt the use. 
The other instance is that of bot* 
tomry and respondentia: for the two 
transactions, being so nearly related, 
may be spoken of together. Bottomry 
is the usbry of pawnbroking : respon<« 


'^\ ■ I m I ■■Wfcwp*— ' t-j t ii M ■Bp'^ay ^^^i^-^giln 

i7^ry allowed. W 

(fen^ia is usury at large^ but com- 
bined in d manner witfv insurance^ 
s^i!id emplQi^ed in the assistance of a 
trade carried on by sea. If any spe- 
cies of usury is to be condemned^. I 
sr^ei not on what grounds this particu>- 
lair species can be screened from the 
condemnation. ^* Oh but" (says sir 
William Blackstone, or any body else 
who takes upon himself the task of 
finding a reason for the law) ^* this is 
a liiaritime country, and the trade, 
which it carries on by sea, is the 
gre^t bulwark of its defence/' It is 
not necessary I should here inquire^ 
whether that branch, which, as Drl 
l^mith has shewn, is, in every view but 
the mere one of defence, less beneficial 
to a nation, than two others out of the 
four branches which comprehend all 
trade, has any claim to be preferred 
to them in this or any other way. X 

£ 3^ admits 

83 Lett. VIII. Virtual 

admit, that the liberty which this 
branch of trade enjoys, is no more 
than what it is perfectly right it 
should enjoy. What I want to know 
is, what there is in the class of men, 
embarked in this trade, that should 
render beneficial to them, a liberty, 
which would be ruinous to every body 
else. Is it that sea adventures have 
less hazard on them than land adven- 
tures? or that the sea teaches those, 
who have to deal with it, a degree of 
forecast and reflection which has been 
denied to landmen ? 

It were easy enough to give farther 
and farther extension to this charge of 
inconsistency, by bringing under it 
the liberty given to insurance in all 
its branches, to the purchase, and sale 
of annuities, and of post-obits, in a 
word to all cases where a man is per- 
mitted to take upon himself an unlir 


Usury allowed. 89 

mited degree of risk^ receiving for so 
doing an unlimited compensation. 
Indeed I know not where the want 
of instances would stop me: for in 
what part of the magazine of events^ 
about which hunun transactions are 
conversant^ is certainty to be found ? 
But to this head of argument^ this 
argument ad hominem^ as it may be 
called, the use of which is but subsi- 
diary, and which has more of ccmfuta- 
tion in it than of persuasion or instruct 
tion, I willingly put an end. 

84 LCTT. IX. Bladtstant considered. 


Bktckstmie eomidered. 

X Hope you are^ by this time, at 
leuly pretty mnch of my opinioo, 
tbat there is j ust the same sort of harmj 
aipud no other, in making the best terms 
<me can for one's self in a money loan, 
as there is in any other sort of bargain. 
If you are not, Blackstone however is, 
whose opinion I hope you will allow to 
be worth something. In speaking of 
the rate of interest*, he starts a pa- 
rallel between a bargain for the loan 
of money, and a bargain about a horse, 
and pronounces, without hesitation, 
|hat the harm of making too good a 

• B. ii. cb. 90. 


LEtt. IX. Bldcksidne corisiaered. ^$ 

bargain, is just as gr^at in the one Case, 
as in the other. As money-Ieciding, 
^nd not horse-deaiing, v^z^^ What yott 
lawyers call, the principat tase^ he 
drops the liorse-biisihess, as s6oh as; 
it has answered the purpose of illus* 
tration, which it wias brought to serve. 
But as, in my conception, as well the 
reasoning by which he supports the 
decision, as that by which any body 
else could have supported it, is julst as! 
applicable to the one sort of bargain 
as to the other^ I will carry on the 
parallel a little farther, and give the 
same extent to the reasoning, asi tb the 
position which it is made' use of to 
support. This extension will not be 
without its use; for if the position, 
when thus extended, should be found 
just, a practical inference will arise; 
which is, that the benefits of these re- 
straints ought to be extended from 


86 Lett. IX. Blackstone considerei^ 


the money-trade to the horse-trade. 
That my own opinion is not favour- 
able to such restraints in either case^ 
has been sufficiently declared; but i£ 
more respectable opinions than mine 
are still to prevailj they will not be the 
less respectable for being consistent^ 

The sort of bargain which the 
learned commentator has happened to 
pitch upon for the illustration^ is in* 
deed, in the case illustrating^ as in the 
case illustrated^ a loan: but as> to my 
apprehension^ loan or sale makes, in 
point of reasoning,, no sort of differ- 
ence, and as the utility of the conclu- 
8ix)Q will, in the latter case, be more 
extensive, I shall adapt the reasoning 
to the more important business of sell- 
ing horses, instead of the less import- 
ant one of lending them. 

A circumstance^ that would render 
th^ extension of these restraints to the 



Lett. IX. Blackstone considered. &7 

horse-trade more smooth and easy^ is,, 
that in the one track> as* well as in the 
other^ the public has already got the 
length of calling names. Jockey-ship^ 
a term of reproach noteless frequently 
applied to the arts of those who sell 
horses than to the arts of those wha 
ride them, sounds, I take it, to the 
ear of many a worthy gentleman,, 
nearly as bad as umry : and it is well, 
known to all those who put their trust 
in proverbs^ and not less^ to those wha 
put their trust in party, that when we 
have got a dog to hang, who is trou* 
blesome and keeps us at bay, whoever 
can contrive to fasten a bad name ta 
his tail, has gained morp than half 
the battle. I now proceed with my 
application. The words in italics are 
my own : all the rest are Sir William 
Blackstone's : and I restore, at bot- 

88" LfiTT. IX. Btactcstone cortsidered. 

torn, the words I was obliged' to dis- 
card, in order to make room for mih^. 

" To demand an exorbitant price 
** is equally contrary to conscience, 
'* for the loan of a horse, or for the 
*' loan of a sum of money : but a rea- 
** sonable equivalent for the tempo- 
** rai^ inconvenience, which the own- 
•* er may feel by the want of it, and' 
'* for the hazard of his losing it ca- 
*' tirely, is not more immoral in one 
** case than in the other. * * » * 

" As to selling horses^ a capital dis- 
" tinction must be made, between a 
*' moderate and an exorbitant pro£t:^ 
** to the former of which we give the 
" name of hcrse-dcaling* , to the latter 
*^ the truly odious appellation ofjoc' 
** kaf-ship\ : the former is necessary 
•* in every civil state, if it were but to 

•inMwit. tuwry- 

" exclude 


Lbtt. IX. BUtckstohe amsidered. 9§ 

" exclude the latter. For, as the whole 
*' of this matter is well summed up 
by Grotius^ if the compensation 
allowed by law does not exceed 
** the proportion of the inamoenience 
*^ which it is to the setter of the horse t& 
'* part with it^, or ithe wArit which the 
*^ buyer has <sf ftf, its allowance is 
*^ neither repugnant to the revealed 
^^ law, noir to th^ natural law : bui 
*} if it exceeds ih^se bounds, it is 
** then an oppress! vteyoc*g^5'Aip J : and 
** though the municipal laws may give 
^* it impunity, they never can make li 

** We see, that the Exorbitance or 
" moderation of the price given for a 
'* horse% depends upon two circum- 
^^ stances : upon the inconvenience of 

^ hacard run. t ^<^lt by the loan. % usury. 
% interest for the money lent. 

'^ parting 

90 Lett. IX. Blachtone consider^^ 

♦* parting with the horse one has*, and 
** the hazard of not being able to meet 
" with such anotiier'\. The inconveni- 
** ence to individual sellers of horses%y 
*^ can never be estimated by laws ; the 
M general price for horses^ must depend 
'^ therefore upon the usual or general 
^' inconvenience. This results entireiy 
*' from the quantity of horses jji in the 
^* kingdom : for the uxore horses% there 
f* are running about*^ in any nation/ 
^' the greater superfluity there will be 
M beyond what is necessary to carry on 
^* the business of the mail coaches-f-f and 
*' the common concerns of life. In 
" every nation or public community 
" there is a certain quantity of horses^t 
" then necessary, which a person well 
*^ skilled in political arithmetic might 

* it for the ^present. i losing it entirciyi 

X lenders. § rate of general interest. \\ money. 
^ specie. ** circulating. ft exchange, 

it money. 

« perhaps 


Lett. IX, Blackstone considered. 91 

'' perhaps calculate as exactly as a pri- 
" vate horse- dealer^ can the demand 
*^ for running horses in his own stables-f : 
•'all above this necessary quantity 
** may be spared^ or lent, or sold, with- 
^' out much inconvenience to the re* 
♦' gpective lenders or sellers : and the 
•• greater the national superfluity is^ 
•' the more numerous will be the selt- 
^^ ers'j^.y and the. lower ought the na^ 
" iional price of horse-flesh § to be :, 
•' but where there are not enough^ or. 
** barely enough spare horses || to an-* 
*' swer the ordinary usea of the pub- 
*^ \\c, horse-fleshy will be proportion- 
** ably high: for sellers** will be 
•< but few^ as few can submit to the in- 
*' convenience of ^^/Z/w^tf."— So for 
the learned commentator. 

* banker, t cash in his own shop. { lenders. 

§ Uie rate of the national interest. 
H circulating cash. ^interest ** lenders. 

ft leading. 

I hope 

98 Lett. IX. Blackstone considered^ 

I hope by this time you are warked 
up to a proper pitch of indignation^ 
at the neglect and inconsistency b^* 
trayed by the law, in not suppressing 
this species of jockey-ship, iVhich it 
would be so easy to do, only by fixing 
the price of h6rt€^. Nobody i^ la^ 
disposed than 1 ani> to be tmchairf-* 
table: but when one thinks of th^ 
15001. taken for Eclipse^ and SOOOK 
for Rockingham> and so on> wlio cao 
avoid being shocked^ to think hoW^ 
Kttle r^rd those who tdok such' 
enormous prices must have had fot 
^' the law of revelation and the law 
« of nature ?" Whoeveif it is that is 
to move for the municipal law, not 
iong ftgo talked of, for reducing thief 
rate of interest, whenever that motion 
is made, then would be the time for 
one of the Yorkshire members to get 
npj and move, by way of addition, 



Lett. IX. BlachUme considered. 9& 

for a clause for fixing and reducing 
the price of horses. I need not expa- 
tiate on the usefolness of that valuable 
species of cattle^ i^hich might have 
been as cheap as asses before now^ if 
our lawgivers had been as mindful of 
their duty in the suppression oijdchejf^ 
-shipf as they have been in the sup- 
jpression of usury. 

It may be said> against fixing th6 
price of horse*flesh» that: diflerent 
horses may be of different values. I 
answer — and I think I shall shew yaa 
afi much, when I come to touch upon 
the subject of ch^mperty—^not niore 
different than the values which the 
use of the sam^ sum of money may be 
ctf to diflerent persona, on different 

94 Lett. X. Grounds of the 



Grounds of the Prejudices against Ustmf^ 

It is one thing, to find reasons why 
it is fit a law should have been made : 
it is another to find the reasons why it 
teas made: in other words, it is one 
thing to justify a law: it is another 
thing to account for its existence. In 
the present instance, the former task, 
if the observations I have been trou- 
bling you with are just, is an impos<* 
sible one. The other, though not 
necessary for conviction, may contri'^ 
bute something perhaps in the way of 
satisfaction. To trace an error to its 
fountain head, says lord Coke, is to 


Prejudkis against t/sufy, 95 

refute it; and many men there are whOj, 
till they have received this satisfaction^ 
be the error what it may> cannot pre-^ 
vail upon' themselves to part with iU 
^/ If our ancestors have been all along 
*^ under a mistake, how came they to 
'^ have fallen into it ?'' is a question 
that naturally presents itself upon all 
such occasions. The case is> that ia 
matters of law more especially, such is 
the dominion of authority over our 
minds, and such the prejudice it creates 
in favour of whatever institution it has 
taken under its wing^ that, after all 
manner of reasons that can be thought 
of, in favour of the institution, have 
been shewn to be insufficient^ we still 
cannot forbear looking to some unas- 
signable and latent reason for its effi* 
cient causes But if> instead of any such 
reason, we can find a cause for it in 
some notion, of the errpneousness of 


96 I<ETT. X. C.rom49. tlf thf 

irblch we are already satisfied, then at 
last we are content to give it up with- 
out further struggle ; and theD, and 
not till then, our satisfaction is com- 

In the conceptions of the more con- 
siderable part of those through whom 
our religion has been handed down to 
us, virtue, or rather godliness, which 
was an improved substitute for virtaej 
consisted in self-denial : not in self-de- 
nial for the sake of society, but of self- 
denial for its own sake. One pretty 
general rule served for most occasions: 
not to do what you had a mind to do; 
or, in other words, not to do what 
would be for your advantage. By 
this of course was meant temporal ad- 
vantage : to which spiritual advantage 
was understood to be in constant and 
diametrical opposition. For, the proof 
of a resolution, on the part of a being 

Prejudites against Usuryi 9T 

of perfect power and benevolence^ to 
make his few favourites happy in a 
state in which thej xoere to be, was his 
determined pleasure^ that they should 
keep themselves as much strangers to 
happiness as possible, in the state in 
which they ^'were. . Now to get money 
is what most men have a mind to do r 
because he who has money gets^ as far* 
as it goes, most other things that he 
has a mind ibr. Of. course nobody 
was to get money : indeed why should 
he, when he was not so much as ta 
keep what he had got already ? To 

lend money at interest, is to get mo- 
ney, or at least to try to get it : of 
course it was a bad thing to lend mo- 
ney upon such terms. The belter the 
terms, the worse it was to lend upon 
thqm : but it was bad to lend uponr, 
any terms, by which any thing could 

F be 


9a Lett.X Gnmnds^ the 

be got. What made it much the worse 
was^ that it was acting like a Jew : lor 
though all Christians at first were 
Jews, and continued to do as Jews 
did^ after they had become Cbriatians^ 
yetj in process of time, it came to l»e 
discovered, that the ^stance betweea 
the mother and the daughter chorch 
could not be too wide. 

By degrees, as old conceits gave 
place to new, nature so far prevailed, 
that the. objections to getting money 
in general, vf ere pretty well over-ruled : 
but still this Jewish way of getting it, 
was too odious to be endured. Chris* 
tians were too intent upon plaguing 
Jews, to listen to the suggestion of 
doing as Jews did, even though mo- 
ney were to be got by it. Indeed the 
easier method, and a method pretty 
much iuvvogue, was, to let the Jews 

fn^udkes against Ususy. 90 

get the money any how they c<mld» 
and then squeeze it (mt of them as it 
was wanted* 

In process of time» as questions of 
all sorts came under discussicm^ and 
this, not the least interestii^^ among 
the resty the anti- Jewish side of it found 
no unopportune support in a passage 
of Aristotle : that celebrated heath^t^ 
wbo> in all matters wherein heathenism 
did not dertroy bis cDinpeteiiee.: had 
established a despotic empire oyer Ae 
Christian world. As fate would have 
it^ that great philosopher^ with all his 
industry, and all his penetration^ not^ 
withstanding the great number of 
pieces of money that had passed 
through his hands (more perhaps 
than ever passed through the huids 
<^ philosopher before or since}^ and 
notwithstanding the uncommon pains 
he had bestowed on the subject of ge* 

F 2 neration. 

1«0 LjetT. X. ^Grounds ^. tt* 

neration, bad never been able to dif» 
cover^ in any one piece of money » any. 
organs for generating any other such 
piece. Emboldened by so strong a body 
of negative proof, he ventured at last 
to usher into the world the result of bis 
observations, in the form of an univer- 
sal proposition, that aU numey is in its 
nature barren. You, my friend, to 
If hose oast of mind sound reason is 
Brach more congenial than ancient phi- 
losophy, you have, I dare to say, gone 
before me in remarking, that the prac« 
tioal inference from this shrewd obser- 
vation, if it afforded any, should have 
been, that it would be to no purpose 
for a man to try to get five per -cent. 
out of money — not, that if he could 
contrive to get so much, there would 
be any harm in it. But the sages of 
those days did not view the matter in 
that light. 

A con* 

Prejudices against Usury. ^ 101 

A consideration that did not happen 
to present itself W* that great philosd- ^ 
pher^ but which had ,it happened to 
present itself^ might jklp4:% have been 
altogether unworthy of hb*'n9tice^ is^ 
that though a d!anc would ilotr. beget 
another daric^ any more than *it ^vould ^ 
a ram, or an ewe, yet for a daric wliiick^ 
a man borrowed, be might get a rai^- 
and a couple of ewes, and that the' 
ewes, were the ram left with them a 
certain time, would probably not be 
barren* That then, at the end of the 
year, he would find himself master of 
bis three sheep, . togeth^ with two, Jf 
not three, lambs; and that, if he sold 
his sheep again to pay back his daric, 
and gave one of his lambs for the use 
of it in the mean time, he would be 
two lambs, or at least one Jamby 
richer than if he had made, no such 



1 02 Lett. X. Grounds of the 

These theological tod philosophical 
conceits^ the offspHng of the day^ were 
not ill seconded; by principles of It 
more jiennab^t complexion. 

The l>limies8 of a money-lender^ 

though, t^Hy among Chrifitiansj and in 

Cfarirtiah times^ a proscribed profes- 

.jHoq^' has no whercj nor at any time, 

>^een a popular one. Those wbo haVe 

'the resolution to sacrifice the present 

4o future^ are natural objects df envy 

to those who have sacrifioed the ifoture 

to 'the present. The children who have 

eat their cake are the natural enemies 

of 'the children who have theirs. 

While the money is hoped for, and 

for a short time after it has been re- 

ceired, he who lends it is a friend and 

lieneiactor: by the time the money is 

^pent, and the evil hour of reckoning 

is jcome^ the benefactor is found to 

have chan|;ed his nature, and to have 


Pr^judkts against Usurjf^ 109 

put on the tyrant and the oppressor. It 

is an oppression for a man to reclaim his 

own money : it is none to keep it from 

him. Among the inconsiderate^ th«t 

is among the great mass of mankind, 

wlfisfa affections conspire with the so** 

cial in treasuring up all favour for the 

man ofdissipation, and in refusing jus* 

•tioe to the man of thrift who has sup^ 

|>lied Inm. In some shape or other that 

iiftvour attends the chosen object of it, 

through every stagey of his career. 

But, in no stage of his career, can the 

mim of thrift come in for any share of 

it It is the general interest of those 

. with whom a man lives, that his cat^ 

pense should be at least as great as bis 

circumstances will bear : because thero 

are few expenses which a man can 

launch into, but what the benefit of 

it is shared, in some proportion or 

ather» by those with whom he lives. 


104 Lett. X. Grounds of the 

In that circle originates a standing 
law^ forbidding every man, on pain of 
ittSamy, to confine his expenses within 
what is adjudged to be the measure of 
jlis means, saying always the power of 
ecceeding that limit, as much as he 
thinks proper : and the means assigned 
him by that law may be ever so much 
beyond his real means, but are sure 
never to fall short of them. So close 
is the combination thus formed be- 
tween the idea of merit and the idea 
of expenditure,' that a disposition to 
' spend finds favour in the eyes even of 
those who know that a man's circum- 
stances do not entitle him to the means : 
atid an upstart, whose chief recom- 
^mendation is this disposition, shall find 
' himself to have purchased a permanent 
'fiind of respect, to the prejudice of the 
very persons at whose expense he has 
heen gratifying his appetites and his 
i pride. 


Prejudices against Usury. 105 

pride. The lustre^ which the diisplay 
of borrowed wealth has diffased over 
his character^ awes men/ during the 
season of his prosperity/ into a sub- 
misstORto his insolence : and when the 
hand of adversity has orertaken him at 
}ast, the recollection of the height, from 
which he has fallen, throws the veil of 
^sompassion over his injustice. 

. The condition of the man of thrift 
is the reverse. His' lasting opulence 
procures him a share, at least, of the 
same envy, that attends the prodigal's 
transient display : but the use he makes 
of it procures him no part of the fa- 
vour which attends the prodigal. In 
the satisfactions he derives from that 
use, the pleasure of possession, and tl^e 
idea^of. enjoying, at some distant pe« 
riod, which may never arrive, nobody 
comes in for any share. In the midst 
of his opulence he is regarded as a 

F 3 kind 

v<p- V 

106 I^TT.^. Grotmds of the 

kind of insolvent^ who refuses to ho- 
nour the bills^ Which their rapacity 
would draw upon him, and who is bjr 
so much the more criminal than other 
insolvents^ as not having the plea of 
inability for an excuse. 

Could there be any doubt of the dis- 
favour which attends the cause of the 
money-lender, in his competition with 
the borrower, and of the disposition 
of the public judgment to sacrifice the 
interest of the former to that of the 
latter, the stage would afford a com- 
pendious, but a pretty conclusive proof 
of it. It is the business of the drama* 
tist to study, and to conform to, the 
humours and passions of those, on the 
jpleasitig of whom he depends for his 
^ucc^s : it is the course which reflec- 
tion must suggest to every ma^, and 
which a man wonld naturally fall into, 
though he were not to think about it. 


Prgkidias against Usury ^ 107 

He mBjy and very frequently does, 
make magnificent ^^retences, of giv- 
ing the law to them : ,but woe be to 
^fiim that attempts to give them any 
other law than what they are disposed 
already to recetye. If he wonid at- 
tempt to lead them one inch, it must 
be with great caution, and not with^ 
out suffering himself to be led by them 
at least a dozen. Now, I question, 
whether, among all the instances in 
which a borrower and a lender of mo- 
ney have been brought together upon 
the stagje, from the days of Thespis to 
•the present, there ever was one, in 
which the former was not recom- 
mended to favour in some shape or 
other, either to admiration, or to love,, 
or to pity, or to all three $ and the 
other, the man of thrift, consigned to 



^OiS Lett, X. Greurtds <if the 

Hence it U that, id reviewiDg and 
adjusting the interests of these appa- 

jrenUy- riv^ parties, the advoDtagff 
-made by the borrower is so apt to slip 
.out of sight, and that made by the 
Jender to appear in so exaggerated a 
point of view. Hence it is, that though 
prejudice is so far softened as to ac~- 
qniesce in the lender's making some 
adrantage, lest the borrower should 
lose altogether the benefit <^ his assist- 
ance, yet still the borrower is to hare 
all the favour, and the lender's advan- 
tage is for ever to be clipped, and 
pared down, as low as it will bear. 
First it was to be confined to ten per 
.cent, then to eight, then ta six, then 
to five, and now lately there was a re- 
port of its being to be brought down 
to four; with constant liberty to sink 
as much lower as it would. The bur- 


kes against Uswrjf. 109 

then of these restraints, of course, has 
been intended exclusively for the 
lender: in reality, as I think you 
have seen, it presses much more hea- 
vily upqn the borrower : I mean him 
who either becomes, or in vain wishes 
to become so. But the presents di- 
rected by prejudice. Dr. Smith will 
tell us, are not always delivered ac- 
cording to their address. It was thus 
that the mill-stone designed for the 
necks of those vermin, as they have 
been called, the dealers in corn, was 
found to fall upon the heads of the 
consumers. It is thus — but further 
examples would lead me further from 
the purpose. 

- r 

110 Lett.^XI. Cmpound Interests 


Camp&und ItOerest. 

A Word or two I must trouble you 
withy concerning compound interest i 
for compound interest is discounten- 
anced by the law ; I suppose, as a 
sort of usury. That, without an ex- 
press stipulation, the law never gives 
it, I wdl remember : whether, in case 
t)f an express stipulation, the law al- 
lows it to be taken, I am not absolute- 
ly certain. I should suppose it might r 
remembering covenants in mortgages 
that interest should become principaK 
At any rate, I think the law can- 
not well punish it under the name of 


Lett. XI. Compound Interest. Ill 

If the discoontenanee ^hewn to this 
arrangement be grounded on the hor- 
ror of the sin of usury » the impro- 
-priety of sueh discoiintenanee follows 
i of course, from the arguments wfaidi 
sAiew the un-" smfidrKSs <jf that m." 

Other argument against it, I be- 
lie?e> was never attempted, unless it 
were the giving to such an arrange- 
ment the epithet of a hard one: m 
doing which, something more like a 
reason is given, than one gets in ordi- 
nary from the common law. 

If that consistency were to be found 
in the common law, which has nevec 
yet been found in man's conduct, and 
which perhaps is hardly in man's na- 
ture, compound interest never conM 
have been denied. 

The views which suggested this 
denial, were, I dare to say, very good r 


118 Lett. XI. Compound Interest. 

■ the effects of it are, I am certain, very 
If the^borrower pays the interest at 

- the day, if he performs his engage- 

.inent, that very engagement to which 
the law pretends to oblige him to con- 
forto, the lender, who receives- that in- 
terest, makes compound interest of 
course, by lending it out agun, unless 
he -chooses rather to expend it: be ex- 
pects to receive it at the day, or what 
meant. the engf^ement? if he fails of 
receiving it, he is by so much a loser. 
The borrower, by paying it at the 
day, is no loser : if he does not pay it 
at the day, he is by so much a gainer : 
a pain of disappointment takes place 
in the case of the one, while no such 
pain takes place iu the case of the 
other. The cause of him whose con- 

.tention is to catch a gain, is thus pre- 


Lett. XL Compound InteresL 113 

ferred to that of him whose conten- 
tion is to avoid a loss: contrary to the 
reasonable and useful maxim of that 
branch of the common law which has 
acquired the name of equity. The 
gain, which the law in its tenderness 
thus bestows on the defaulter, is an 
encouragement, a reward, which it 
holds out for breach of faith, for 
iniquity, for indolence, for negli* 
gence. . 

. The loss, which it thus throws up^ 
on the forbearing lender, is a punish- 
ment which at inflicts on him for his 
forbearance : the power which it gives 
him of avoiding that loss, by prose- 
cuting the borrower upon the instant 
of failure, is thus converted into a re- 
ward which it hdds out to him for his 
bard-heartedness and rigour. Man is 
.not quite so good as it were to be 
wished he were y but he would bq bad 


114 Lett. XI. Compound Interest. 

iodeedy were he bad on all the occa* 
sions where 4he law, as far as depends 
<m hsTy has made it his interest so to 

It may be iflipossible,* say you, H 
cpften is impossible, for the borrower 
to pay the interest at the d&y : and 
you say truly. What is the inference ? 
That the creditor should not have it in 
'his power to ruin the debtor for not 
paying at the day, and that he should 
receive a compensation for the loss oc^ 
casioned by such faihre.'-^l^e has it 
jn his power to ruin him, and he has 
it not in his power to obtain such 
tK>mpensation. The judge, were it 
possible for an arrested debtor to find 
-his way into a judge's chamber instead 
of a spunging-house, might award f^ 
proper respite, suited to the circum- 
stances of the parties. It is not possi^ 
bie^ but a respite is purchased, proper 


Lett. XL Compound Interest. 1 15 

or not proper^ perhaps at ten time^ 
periiaps at a . hundred times the ex* 
pence of compound interest^ by 'put^ 
ting in bail, and fighting thecr editor 
through all the windings of mischier- 
QOB and unnecessaiy delay. Of the 
satisfaction due either for the original 
fiulure^ or for the subsequent Vexation 
by which it has been aggravated^ ^no 
part IS ever received iby the injured 
creditor: but the instruments of the 
law receive, perhaps at his expense, 
perhaps at the debtor's, perhaps ten 
times, perhaps a hundred times the 
amount of that satisfaction. Such is 
the result of this tenderness of the 

It is in consequence of such tender- 
ness that on so many occasions a man, 
though ever so able, would find him- 
self a loser by paying his just debts : 
those very debts of which the law has 


116 Lett. XI. Compound Interest. 

lecogQJzed the justice. Theipan who 
obeys the dictates of eommoD honesty, 
the man who does, what the law pre- 
tends to bid bi[n> is wanting to him- 
self. Hence your regnlar and securely 
profitable writs of error in the house 
of lords: hence yoar random and y'iO' 
dictive costs of one hundred pounds 
and two hundred pounds, now and 
then given in that house. It is natu- 
ral, and it is something, to find, in^a 
company of lords> a zeal for justiee : 
it is not natural, to find, in such: a 
cranpaoy, a disposition to bend dawn 
tathe toilof calculatioor 


--^ — ^-^a 

Lett. XIL Maintenance, SCe. 117 


Maintenance and Champettj/. 

Having in the preceding lettersr 
liad occasion to lay down, and, 
88 I flatter myself, to make gCK)d> 
the general principle, that no man of 
pipe years, and of sound mind, ought, out 
of loving kindness to him, to be hindered 
from making such bargain, in the way ff 
obtaining money, as, acting with his eyes 
open, he deems conducive to^ his interest, I 
will take your leave for pushing it A 
little farther, and extending the appli^- 
tation of it to another class: of regnla- 
tions still less defensible. I mean the 


118 Lett. XIL Maintenance 

antique laws against what are called 
Maintenance and Champerty. 

To the head of Maintenance, I think 
you refer, besides other offences which 
are not to the present purpose, that 
of purchasings upon any terms, any 
Claim^ which it requires a suit at law, 
or in equity, to enforce. 

Champerty, which is but a particu^^ 
kr modification of this sin of MaiQte«> 
Qance, is, I think, the furnishing a 
man who has such a claim, with regard 
to a real estate, such money as he may 
have occasion for, to carry on such 
claiinf u^on the terms of receiving a 
part of the estate in case of success. 

What the penalties are for these 
offences 1 do not recollect, nor do I 
think it worth while hunting for themi 
though I have Blackstone at my elbow^ 
They are at any rate^ sufficiently se- 

and Champerty. 119 

yete to answer the purpose^ the mUier 
as the bargain is made vmdi 

To iliastrate the mischievQiiaiiesff of 
the laws by which they have bean 
created^ give me leave to tell yooa 
story, which is but to6 trae an one> 
and which happened to fall within my 
own observation. 

A gentleman of my acquaintance 
had succeeded, during his minority^ ta 
an estate of about 30001. a year : I 
won't say where. His guardian^ con- 
cealing from him the value of the 
estate, which circumstances rendered 
it easy for him to do, got a convey- 
ance of it from him» during his non* 
age, for a trifle. Immediately upon the 
ward's coming of age, the guardian^ 
keeping him still in darkness, found 
means to get the conveyance confirm* 
ed. Some years afterwards, the ward 

discovered the value of the inheritance 


■ ^«<.«— .i.^ ^__ 

ItO Lett. XII. Maintenance 

he had be6n tbrowiog atvay. Private' 
representations proving, as it may he 
imagined, ioeffectnal, he applied to a 
court of eijuity. The suit was in some 
forwardness : the opioioo of the ablest 
counsel highly encouraging : but mo- 
ney there remained none. We all know 
but too well, that, in spite of the un- 
impeachable integrity of the bench, 
that branch of justice, which is parti- 
cularly dignified with the name of 
equity, is only for those who can af- 
fi«d to throw away one fortune for the 
chance of recovering another. Two 
persons, however, were found, who, 
between them, were content to defray 
tbe expense of the ticket for this lot- 
tery, on condition of receiving half the 
prize. The prospect now became en- 
couraging: when unfortunately one 
of the adventurers, in exploring the 
recesses of the bottomless pit, happen- 


and Champerty. 121 

^ to dig up one of the old statutes 
against Champerty. This blew up the 
whole project: however the defend- 
ant, understanding that, some how or 
other, his antagonist had found sup- 
port, had thought fit in the mean time 
to propose terms, which the plaintiflf^ 
after his support had thus dropped from 
under him, was very glad to close with. 
He received, I think- it was» SOOOI.; 
and for that he gave up the estate, 
which was worth about as much year- 
ly, together with the arrears, which 
were worth about as much as the 

Whether, in the barbarous age 
which gave birth to these .barbarous 
precautions, whether, even under the 
2enith of feudal anarchy, such fetter- 
ing regulations could have had reason 


on their side, is a question of curiosity 
rather than use. My notion is, that 

G there 

ISS Lett. XII. MdintAtance 

tbere never was a iimej tliat there oe- 
rer cbuld hare been, or can be a time, 
when the pushing of suitors away from 
court with one hand, while they are 
beckoned into it with another, would 
not be a policy equally faithless, in- 
consistent, and absurd. But, what 
every body must acknowledge, is, 
that, to the times which called forth 
these laws, and in which alone they 
could have started up, the present are 
as opposite as light to darkness. A 
mischief, in those times, it seems, but 
too common, though a mischief not to 
be cured by such laws, was, that a 
man would buy a weak claim, in 
hopes that power might convert it 
into a strong one, and that the sword 
of a baron, stalking into court with a 
rabble of retainers at his heels, might 
strike terror into the eyes of a judge 
upon the bench. At present, what 


and Champerty. 1^ 

cares au English judge for the swords 
of an hundred barons? — ^Neither fear- 
i»g nor hoping^ hating nor loving, 
the judge of our days is ready with 
oqual phlegm to administer, upon aH 
occasions, that system, whatever it be, 
of justice, or injustice, which the law 
has put into his hands. A disposition 
so consonant to duty could not have 
then been hoped for : one more con- 
sonant is hardly to be wished. Wealth 
has indeed the monopoly of justice 
against poverty : and such monopoly 
it is the direct tendency an^ necessary 
effect of regulations like these to 
strengthen and confirm i But with 
this * monopoly no judge that lives 
now is at all chargeable. The law 
created this monopoly : the law, when 
ever it pleases, may dissolve it. 

I will not however so far wander 
from my subject as to inquire what 

6 S measure 

1*4 Lett.XII. Maintenance 

mjeasure might have, been necessary to 
afford a full relief to the case of that 
unfortunate gientleman^ any more than 
to the cases of so many other g6nt)e^ 
men who might be founds as unfortu- 
nate as he. I will not insist upon so 
atrange and so inconceivable an ar- 
rangement, as that of the judge's see- 
ing both parties face to face in the first 
instance, observing what the facts are 
in dispute, and declaring, that as the 
facts should turn out this way or that 
way, such or such would be his decree. 
At present, I confine myself to the 
removal of such part of the mischief, 
as may arise from the general conceit 
of keeping men out of difficulties, by 
cutting them off from such means of 
relief as each man's situation may af- 
ford. A spunge in this, as in so ma- 
ny other cases, is the only needful, and 
only availing remedy : one stroke of 


I and Champerty. 125 

it for the musty laws against mainte- 
nance and champerty : another for the 
more recent ones against usury. Con- 
sider, for example, what would have 
respectively been the effect of two such 
strokes, in the case of the imfortunate 
gentlemen I have been speaking of. 
By the first, if what is called equity 
has any claim to confidence, he would 
have got, evem after paying off his 
champerty- usurers, 15001. a year ia 
land, and about as much in money : 
instead of getting, and that only by aa 
accident, 30001. once told. By the 
other, there is no saying to what a de^ 
gree he might have been benefited. 
May I be aUowed to stretch so far in 
favour of the law as to suppose, that 
80 small a sum as 5001. would have 
carried him through his suit, in the 
course of about three years ? I am sen- 
sible, that may be thought but a short 


126 Lett. XII. Maintenance 

sunij and this but a short terrn^ for a 
suit in equity: but^ for the purpose 
of illustration, it may serve as well as 
a longer. Suppose he had sought this 
necessary sum in the way of borrow* 
ing ; and had been so fortunate, or, as 
the laws against the sin of usury would 
s^le it, so unfortunate, as to get it tf 
200 per cent. He would- then ha^^ 
purchased his 60001. a year at the price 
of half as much once paid, visi. SQOQt.; 
instead of selling it at that price. Whe* 
tber, if no such laws against usury bad 
been in being, he could have got the 
money,, even at that rate, I will not pre^ 
tend to say : perhaps he might not 
\we got it under ten tknes that rate, 
perhaps he might hate got it at the 
tenth part of that rate. Thus far, I 
thmk, we may say, that he might, and 
probably would, have been the better 
for the repeal of those laws : hut thus 


• »^ ,. 

f«r we iQusti S9.y, tly^ it is iaip9jap|M9 
he shQuld b^ve beea t)ie wojTf^ T^ 
terwi, upciii which hfi Qiel wi^h Q^vept 
turers wUJjiig tp r^liere hi«i, tliongb 
i\key cow^ no|; will^in thait spaiM^y fifiUI^ 
W)biqh, tbe I^nr*, iq tjie oarroma^ss of M^ 

CMes <A %!N^\'Y y^a^ft p^rchnse^ of tjb$ 
SOQQI. Id y«Mr hd W9§ cwitooitjo ba.Fi^ 
iiAcrificetd Jor 3i»ch w$iatavicej sHnovni^ 
\n effects to iOOft per ceat. Whether 
it was likely that any man^ who was 
disposed to venture his money, at 
all^ upon such a chance, would hare 
thought of insisting upon such a rate 
of interest, I will leave yon to ima-> 
gine : but thus much may be said with 
confidence, because the fact demon- 
strates it, that^ at a rate not exceeding 
this, the sum would actually have been 
supplied. Whatever becomes then of 
the laws against maintenance and 



198 Lett. XII. Maintenance, Kc. 

champerty, the example in question^ 
when applied' to the laws against usn- 
ry, ought, I think, to be sufficient to 
convince us, that so long as the ex- 
pense of seeking relief at law stands 
on its present footing, the purpose of 
seeking that relief will, of itself, inde- 
pendently of every other, afford a suf- 
ficient ground for allowing any man, 
or -every man, to borrow money on any 
terms on which he can obtain it, 


in White Russia^, 

March, 17S7. 


LetT-XIIL ToDr.Sfkith. 129 


To Dr. Smith, on Projects in Arts, flfc 


1 Forget what son of controversy it 
was, among, the Greeks, who hav* 
iiig put himself to school to.a professoc 
of eminence,, to learn what,, in those 
days, went by the name of wisdom, 
chose an attack upon his master for 
the first piublic specimen of his profit 
ciency. This specimen, whatever en*» 
tertainment it might have afforded to 
the audience, afforded, it may be sup-^ 
posed, no great satisfaction to the roas- 
ter :. for the thesis was, that the pupil 

G 3 owedt 

ISO Lbtt.XIIL To Dr. Smith, 

owed him nothiog for his pains. For 
my part» being about to shew myself 
in one respect as ungrateful as the 
Greek, it may be a matter of prudence 
for me to look out for something: like 
candour, by way of covering to my in- 
gratitude: instead therefore of pre- 
tending to owe you nothing, I shall 
begin with acknowledging, that, as far 
as your track coincides with mine, I 
^ould come much nearer the truth, 
were I to say I owed you every thing. 
Should it be my fortune to gain any 
advantage over you, it must be with 
weapons which you have taught me to 
-wield, and with which you yourself 
have furnished me : for, as all the great 
standards of truth, which can be ap- 
pealed to in this line, owe, as far as I 
can understand, their establishment to 
you, I can see scarce any other way of 
fidDvicting you of any error or over* 

a» Projects in Arts, 8(q. 131 

^gbl> than by ju^giog yo9 out of your 
mfro mouth. 

Jp th(9 series of letters to which this 
will form ^ seqoi^U I bad travelled 
nearjy tbuft far in my researches^ into 
the poJicy of the laws fixing the rate 
of interest, eombating snch arguments 
as fancy rather than observation had 
suggested to my view, whepj on ^i 
sttddeuj, recollection pi^sented me witb 
your formidable image, bestriding tbe^ 
ground over which I was travelling 
pretty much at my ease, and opposing 
Ihe shield of your authoclty to Imy ar-^ 
guments I could produce. 

It was a reflection mentioned by Ci* 
eero as affocdiog him some coni&rtj, 
that the employment his tsdents- till 
that time bad met with> had been 
chiefly on the defending side^ How 
little soever blest, on any occasion^^ 
with any portion of his eloquence^ I 


. 132 Lett. XIII. ToDr.SmitK 

may, oo the present occasion, however, , 
indulge myself with a portion of what 
constituted his comfort : for, if I pre- 
sume to contend with you, it is only 
in defence of what I look upon as> not . 
- only an innocent, but a most merito- 
rious race of men, who are so unfortu- 
nate as to have fallen under the rod of 
your displeasure. I mean projectors : . 
under which invidious name I under- 
stand you to comprehend, in particu- 
lar, all such persons as, in the pursuit 
of wealth, strike out into any new 
channel, and more especially into any 
channel of invention. 

It is with the professed view of 
checking, or rather of crushing, these 
adventurous spirits, whom you rank 
with " prodigals," that you approve 
of the laws which limit the rate of in- 
terest, grounding yourself on the ten- 
dency, they appear to you to have, to 


Oft Prqjects iH Jrts, 8Cc. 133 

keep the capital of the country out of 
two such different sets of hands. 

The passage^ I am speaking of, is 
in the fourth chapter of your second 
bookj( volutne the second of the 8vo. 
edition of 1784. «' The legal rate'' 
(you say)^* it is to be observed^ though 
it ought to be somewhat above^ 
ought not to be much above, the 
^^ lowest market rate. If the legal rate 
*^ of interest in Great Britain, for ex- 
*' ample, was fixed so high as eight or 
<* ten per cent, the greater part of the 
^* money which was to be lent, would 
^ be lent to prodigals and projectors, 
^ who alone would be willing to give 
" this high interest. Sober people, 
^* who will give for the use of money 
^ no more thau a part of what they 
*f are likely to make by the use of it, 
*^ would not venture into the compe- 
^ tition. A great part of the capital 

'' of 


134 Lett. XIII. T0 Dr. Smith, 

^^ of the country would thus be ]f:e^ 
«' out of the baoida vrbich weie most 
^* likely to make a profitable and ad- 
^^ vantageoMs use of it» and throwa 
^^ into those which were most likely ta 
^' waste and destroy it. Wh^e tha^ 
** legal interest on the contrary,, 19^ 
'^ fixed but a very little above the 
^< lowest market rate, sobei: people are 
^* universally preferred as borrowers,^ 
^' to prodigals and projectors. The 
^^ person who knds money, gets near-^ 
^^ ly as much interest from the former,. 
^^ as he dares to take from the latter^ 
*^ and his money is much safer in the 
** hands of the one set of people thaa 
<« in those of the other. A great part 
<^ of the capital oi the country is thus 
^^ thrown into the hands in which it 
'< is most likely to be employed with. 
<' adrantage.'*^ 
It happens fortunately for the side 



an Prqfectr in Art$^ Xc, 19S 

you appear to have taken, and as iiti« 
fortunately for miilie» thai the apfieHa* 
tive, which the custom of the language 
has authorised you, and which the pot 
verty and perversity of the language ' 
has in a manner forced you, to make 
use of, is one, which, along with the 
idea of the sort of persons iii question, 
conveys the idea of reprobation, as in* 
discriminately and des^vedly applied 
to them* With what j>ustice or coil- 
sistency, or by the influence of wha4 
causes, this stamp of thdiscriminate re- 
probation has been thus affixed, it ie 
not immediately necessary to inquire. 
But, that it does stand thus affixed> 
you and every body else, I imagine, 
will be ready enough to aUaw. Thia 
being the case, the question stands al-^ 
ready decided, in the first instance al 
least, if not irrevocably, in the judg* 
ments of all those, who, unable or un« 


156 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

willing to be at the pains of analyt^ 
ing their id^as^ suffer their minds to 
be led captive by the tyranny of sounds t 
that is, I doubt^ of by far the greater 
proportion of those whom we' are likely 
to have to judge us. In the concqf^* 
tions'of all such persons, to ask whether 
it be fit to restrain projects and pro- 
jectors, will be as much as to ask^ 
whether it be fit to restrain rashness^ 
and foliy> and absurdity, and knavery, 
and waste. 

Of prodigals I shall say no more at 
present. I have already stated my rea- 
sons for thinking, that it is. not among 
them that we are to look for the nar 
tural customers for money at high 
rates of interest. As far as those rea^ 
sons are conclusive, it will follow, that, 
of the two sorts of men you mention 
as proper objects of the burthen of 
these restraints, prodigals and project- 

on Prroects in Arts, SCc. 137 

ors, that burthen falls esclusively oa 
the latter. As to these, what your de- 
finition is of projectors, and what de- 
scriptions of persons you meant to in- 
clude uoder the censure conveyed by 
that name, might be material for the 
purpose of judging of the propriety of 
that censure, but makes no differ- 
ence in judging of the propriety of 
the laiw, which that censure is employ- 
ed to justify. Whether you yourself, 
were the severalclasses of persons mad© 
to pass before you in review, would 
be disposed to pick out this or that 
class, or this and that individual, in 
order to exempt them from such cen- 
sure, is what for that purpose we hare 
no need to inquire. The law, it is 
certaiii, makes no such distinctions r 
it /alls, with equal weight, and with 
all its weight, upon all those persons; 
without distinction, to whom. the teim 
projectors, in the most unpartial and 


taa Lett.XIIL To Dr. Smith. 

extenaire sigoificatioK (^ which it ii 
capaUe, can be applied. It falls at 
say late (to repeat eove oS the words 
of Dry fonner defioition}, upon all 
sncb persons, as, in the poesait of 
wealth, or erea of any other ob- 
ject, endeavoar, hy the assiBtaace of 
wealtli, to stcike into an/ channel of 
inreatioB. It falls upoa all s«eh per* 
SOBS, aa> in the oultiTBtioa of amy oC 
thoee arts which have been by way of 
eBuneace tenned iu^> diiect tbew aof 
deavoura to any of those depattments 
ix which tbeir utility shines most con- 
(picuons and indahitable ; upon aU 
such persoBB as, in the line of any ai 
tbeir pursuits, aim at any thing th^ 
ev) be called improoement j wbetlur it 
eensist in the prodactioD of a^y new 
vticle adapted to man's usei, or in the 
IBcIiorating the quality, or diminishing 
the c^ense. of any of those which are 
•Inady iiapwn to us. it &]ls, in 

on Projects in ArtSy 8Cc. 139 

short, upon every application of the hu« 
nian powers^ in which ingenuity staoxfo 
in Beed of wealtb for its assiakaat. 

High and extraordinary rates of in^ 
terest, bow little soever adapted to the 
situation of the prodigal, are certainlyy 
as you v^ery jiMtly observe,, particularly 
adapted to the situation of the pco<* 
JeetoF : aot however to that of the im^ 
prudent pirojeetor only, nor even to 
his case more thaa another's, bat to 
that of the prudent and weilhgroiuided 
projectotr, if the existence of such a 
being were to be supposed* Whatever 
be the prudence or other cpaalities of 
the project, in whatever circumstaoca 
tbe novelty of it may lie, it has this 
circamstaace against it^ via. that it is 
new. Biiit the rates of interest^ the 
highest rates allowed, are, as yox» ex^ 
pressly say they are, and as you would 
have them to be^ adjusted to the situa- 

, • 

140 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

tion which the sort of trader is ia^ 
whose trade runs in the old channels, 
and to the best security which such 
channels can afford. But in the na- 
ture of things, no new trade, no trade 
carried on in any new channel, can af- 
ford a security equal to that which 
may be afforded by a trade carried on 
in any of thie old ones : in whatever light 
the matter might appear to perfect in- 
telligence, in the eye of erery prudent 
jperson, exerting the best powers of j udg- 
ing which the fallible condition of the 
human faculties affords, the novelty of 
any commercial adventure will oppose 
a chance of ill success, superadded to 
everyone which could attend the same, 
or any other, adventure, already tried, 
and proved to be profitable by experi- 

'The limitation of the profit that is 
to be made, by lending money to per« 



bfi PYojecls in Arts, SCc. 141 

4ons embarked in trade> will render the 
monied man tnore anxious, you maj; 
say, about the goodness of his security, 
and accordingly more anxious to satis- 
fy himself respecting the prudence of a 
project in the carrying on of which the 
money is to be employed, than he 
would be otherwise r and in this way 
it may be thought that these laws have 
a tendency to pick out the good pro« 
jects from the bad, and favpur the for^ 
mer at the expense of the latter. . The 
first of these positions I admit : but I 
can never admit the consequence to 
follow. A prudent man, (I mean no- 
thing more than a man of ordinary pvxi* 
deuce) a prudent man acting under the 
sole governance of prudential motives, 
I still say, will not, in these circum- 
stances, pick out the good projects from 
tbe bad, for he will not meddle with 
projects at alL He will pick out old* 


142 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

established trades from all sorts of pro- 
jects, good and bad ; for with a new 
project, be it ever so promising, he 
never will have any thing to do. By 
every man that has money, five per 
cent, or whatever be the highest legal 
rate> is at all times, and always will be, 
to be had upon the very best security, 
that the best and most prosperous old- 
established trade can afford. Traders 
in general, I believe, it is commonly 
understood, are well enough inclined to 
enlarge their capital, as far as all the 
money they can borrow at the highest 
legal rate, while that rate is so low as 5 
per cent, will enlarge it. How it is pou- 
eible therefore for a project, be it ever 
so promising, to afford, to a lender at 
any such rate of interest, terms equal- 
ly advantageous, upon the whole, with 
those he might be sure of obtaining 
from an old-established business, is 

m, ^TCJ^cU in ArtSj Xc 143 

more tham I can conceive. Loans of 
money may certainly chance, now and 
then, to find their way into the poc- 
kets of projectors i^ well as of other 
men : but when this hfappens, it must 
be tfaroilgh incautiousness, or friend- 
ship, or the expectation of some colla- 
teral benefit, and not through any 
idea of the adirantageousness of the 
trtmsaction/ in the light of a pecuniary 

I should not expect to see it alleg- 
ed, that there is any thing, that should 
i^ender the number of well-grounded 
projects, in comparison of the ill- 
grounded, less in time future, than it 
has been in time past. I am sure at 
least that I know of no reasons Why it 
should be so, though I know of some 
reasons, which I shall beg leaveto sub* 
mit to you by and by, which appear to 


144 Lett.XUI. To Dr. Smith, 

me pretty good ones, why the advan- ' 
tage should be on the side of fatarity. 
But, unless thf stock of weD-grauDded- - 
projects is already spent, and the whole 
stock of ill-grounded projects th^' 
ever were possible, are to be looked 
for exclusively in the tijne to come, 
the jcensure you have passed on {H-ojec-' 
tors, ipeasuriag still the extent of it by 
that of the operation of the laws in the^ 
defence of which it is employed, looks 
as far backward as forward: it con- 
demns, as rash and ill-grounded, all- 
those projects, by which our species 
have been successively advanced from- 
tiiat state in which acorns were their. 
food, and raw hides - their cloathing, 
to the state in which it stands at pre- 
sent: for .think. Sir, letme beg of you, 
wheth^ whatever is now the routine 
iff trade was not, at its commence- 

on Projects in Arts^ fife. 145 

ment^ project? whether whatever is 
now establishment^ was not, at one time^ 

innovation ? 

How it is that the tribe of welU 
grounded projects, and of prudent pro- 
jectors (if by this time I may have 
your leave for applying this epithet to 
some at least among the projectors of 
time past), have managed to struggle 
through the obstacles which the laws 
in question have been holding in their 
way, it is neither easy to know, nor 
necessary to inquire^ Manifest enough^ 
I think, it must be by this time, that 
difficulties, and those not inconsider^ 
able ones, those laws must have been 
holding up, in the way of projects of 
all sorts, of improvement (if I may say 
so) in every line, so long as they have 
had existence : reasonable therefore it 
must be to conclude, that, had it not 
been for these discouragements, pro- 

H jects 

146 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

jects of all sorts^ well-grounded and 
saccessful ones, as well as others, would 
have been more numerous than they 
have been: and that accordingly, on 
the other hand, as soon, if ever, as these 
discouragements shall he removed^ 
projects of all sorts, and among the 
rest, well-grounded and successful 
ones, will be more numerous than 
they would otherwise have been: in 
^hort, that, as, without these discou- 
ragements, the progress of mankind 
in the career of prosperity, would have 
been greater than it has been under 
them in time past; so, were they to be 
removed, it would be ^at least proper* 
tionably greater in time future. 

That I had done you no injustice, 
in assigning to your idea of projectors 
so great a latitude, and that the unfa- 
vourable opinion you have professed 
to entertain of them is not confined to 


on Projects in 4rts, 8Cc. 147 

the above passage, might be madfe, I 
think, pretty apparent, ifit be mate- 
rial, by another passage in the tenth 
chapter of your first book*. " The 
«« establishment of any new manufac* 
^* tare, of any ne^ branch of com* 
^^ merce, or of any new practice in 
<« agriculture,'' all these you compre- 
hend by name under the list of " pro^ 
^^jects:*^ of every one of them you ob- 
serve, that '^ it is a speculation from 
** which the prcjector promises himself 
^^ extraordinary profits. ' These pro- 
'^ fits (you add) are sometimes very 
" greats and sometimes, morefreqtienthf 
** perhaps i they are qtdte otherwise: but 
in general they bear no regular pro- 
portion to those of other old trades 
<^ in the neighbourhood. If the pro- 
ject succeeds, they are commonly 

♦ Edit. 1784, 8vo .p. 177. 

H 2 "at 


148 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Snuth, 


at first very high. When the trade 

or practice becomes thoroughly es>- 

^ tablished and wdl known^ the com- 

*' petition reduces them to the level of 

*^ other trades/' But on this head I 

forbeair to insist:. nor should I hav6 

taken this liberty of giving you back 

your own words^ but in the hope of 

aeeing some alteration made in them in 

your next edition^ should I be fortunate 

enough to find my sentiments confirm^ 

ed by your's. In other respects^ what 

is essential to the public^ is^ what the 

«rror is in the sentiments entertained, 

not who it is that entertains them.* 

I know not whether the observations 

which I have been troubling you with, 

will be thougHt to need, or whether 

they will be thought to receive, 

any additional support from those 

comfortable positions, of which you 

have made such good and such fre^* 


"■ •« ■ •tr^a^^^^^'r- -w^i^^— i» I MP ■ '«>"KMF< 

on Prc^ects^ in Arts, Kc. 14J> 

quent use» concerning the constant 
ttodency of mankind to get forward 
in the career of prosperity^ the preva- 
lence of prudence over imprudence^ 
in the sum of private conduct at leasts 
and the superior fitness of individuals 
for managing their own pecuniary con- 
cerns]^ of which they know the parti- 
culars and the circumstances, in com- 
parison of the legislator, who can have- 
no such knowledge. I will make the 
experiment : for, so long as I have the^ 
mortification to see you on the oppor 
site side, I can never think the ground 
Iliave taken strong enough, while any 
thing remains that. appears capable of 
^rendering it still stronger^ 

'^ With regard to misconduct, the 
'5 number of prudent and successful 
** undertakings'' (you observe*) " is 

» 9- li ch. iii. edit 8vo. 1784> vol. ii. p. W. 



^ 1.^ 

150 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 



every where much greater than that 
of injudicious and unsuccessful ones. 
" After all our complaints of the fre- 
quency of bankruptcies^ the unhap* 
py men who fall into this misfbr- 
'^ tune make but a very small part of 
'^ the whole number engaged in trade^ 
^* and all other sorts of business 5 not 
*^ much more perhaps than one in a 
^« thousand/' 

'Tis in support of this position that 
you appeal to history for the constant 
and uninterrupted progress of man- 
kind, in our island at least, in the ca- 
reer of prosperity: calling upon any 
one who should entertain a doubt of 
the fact, to divide the history into any 
number of periods, from the time of 
Caesar's visit down to the present : pro- 
posing for instance the respective aeras 
of the Restoration, the Accession of 
Elizabeth, that of Henry VII. the 



on Prqjects in Arts, 8Cc. 151 

Norman Conquest, and the Heptar- 
chy ;- and putting it to the sceptic to 
find outy if he can, among all these 
periods, any one at which the condi- 
tion of the country was not more pros- 
perous than at the period immediately 
preceding it : spite of so many wars, 
and fires, and plagues, and all other 
public calamities, with which it has 
been at different times aiBicted, whe- 
ther by the hand of God, or by the 
misconduct of the sovereign. No very 
easy task, I believe: the fact is too 
manifest for the most jaundiced eye to 
escape seeing it : — But what and whom 
are we to thank for it, but projects, 
lyid projectors ? 

" No," I think I hear you saying, 
'' I will not thank projectors for it^ I 
*' will rather thank the laws, which 
^* by fixing the rates of interest, have 
" been exercising their vigilance in 

<* repressing 

I3t Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

<' repressing the temerity of projectorsf, 
'* and preventing their imprudence 
«« from making those defidcations from 
*^ the sum of national prosperity^ which 
^^ it would not have failed to make, 
^^ had it been left free. If, during all 
^^ these periods, that adventurous race 
^' of men had been left at liberty by 
*^ the laws to give full scope to their 
*^ rash enterprises, the increase of 
" national prosperity during these 
periods might have afforded some 
ground for regarding them in a 
more favourable point of view. But 
^* the fact is, that their activity has 
'* had these laws to check it ; without 
'^ which checks you must give me 
leave to suppose, that the current 
of prosperity, if not totally stopt, or 
'^ turned the other way, would at an^ 
*^ rate have been more or less retard- 
'* ed. Here then" (you conclude) 

" lies 


-js^ -". ?r 

. ' im Projects in Arts, Xci ISSt 

*': lies the difference between us. What 
^^ you look upon as the cause of the 
*^ increase about . which we are both: 
^ agreed^ I look upon as an obstacle 
^^ to it :. and what you look upon as the 
^' obstacle^ I look upon as the cause." 

Instead of starting this as a sort of 
plea that might be urged by you, I 
ought,, perhaps, rather to have men^ 
tioned it as what might be urged by 
some people in your place : for as I do ' 
not imagine your penetration would 
suffer yon to rest satisfied with it^ still 
less can I suppose that, if you^ were 
not, your candour would allow you. 
to make use of it as if you were. 

To prevent your resting satisfied 
with it, the following considerations 
would, I think, be sufficient. 

In the first place, of the seven pe- 
riods which you have pitched upon, 
as so many stages for the eye to rest 

H 3 at. 

154 Lett. XIII. To 2>r. Smith, 

at in viewing the progress of prospe- 
rity^ it is only during the three last, 
that the country has had the benefit, 
if SQCh we are to call it, of these laws : 
for it is to the reign of Henry VIII. 
that we owe the first of them. 

Here a multitude of questions might 
be started: Whether the curbing of 
projectors formed any part of the de- 
sign of that first statute, or whether 
the views of it were not whoHy con- 
fined to the reducing the gains of that 
obnoxious and envied class of men, 
the money-lenders ? Whether projec- 
tors have been most abundant before 
that statute,or since that statute? And 
whether the nation has suflnsred, as you 
might say — benefited, as I should say, 
most by them, upon the whole, dur- 
ing the former period or the latter? 
All these discussions, and many more 
that might be started, I decline engag- 

on Prig€ct$ in Aftf^ Xc I4fj 

ing io^ as mQre likely to retard^ than 
to {otwaxA^ our coming to any agree- 
ment conoerning the main question. 

In the next place, I must heve take 
the liberty of referring yon to the 
proof, which J think I have already 
given, of the proposition, that the re* 
straints in question could never have 
had the effect, in any degree, of lessen- 
ing the proportion of bad projects to 
good ones, but only of diminishing, 
•8 far as their influence may have ex- 
tended, the total number of projects, 
good and bad together. Whatever 
therefore was the general tendency of 
the projecting spirit previously to the 
first of these laws, such it must have 
remained ever since, for any effect 
which they could have had in purify- 
ing and correcting it. 

But what may appear more sa1is£BK;- 
tory perhaps than both the above con- 

156 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smm, 

siderations, and may ^ord us the 
best help towards extricating ourselves 
from the perplexity, which the plea I 
have beea combating' (and which I 
thought it necessary to bring to view,' 
fts the best that could be urged) seems 
much better calculated to plunge us 
into, than bring us out of, is, the con- 
sideration of the small effect which the 
greatest waste that can be conceived to 
have been made within any compass of 
time, by injudicious projects, can have 
had on the sum of prosperity, even in 
the estimation of those whose opinion 
is most unfarourable to projectors, in 
comparison of the effect which within 
the same compass of time must have 
been produced by prodigality, 
-, Of the two causes, and only two 
causes, which yon mention, as contri- 
buting to retard the accumulation of 
national wealth, as far as the conduct 

m Projects in JrtSj Hie. ' 157 

of individualB is conceraed, project^ 
ing, as I observed before^ is the one» 
and prodigality is the other : but the 
detriment^ which society can peceive 
even from the concurrent efficacy of 
both these causes^ you represent on se- 
veral occasions^ as inconsiderable; 
and, if I do not naisapprehend you^ 
too inconsiderable^ either to need^ or 
to warrant, the interposition of govern-^ 
ment to oppose it. Bcf this as it may 
with regard to projecting and pro- 
digality taken together, with regard 
to prodigality at least, I am certain 1 
do not misapprehend you. On this 
subject you ride triumphant, and 
chastise the ^' impertinence and pre 
'^ sumption of kings and ministers,'^ 
with a tone of authority, which it re 
quired a courage like your's to ven 
ture upon, and a genius like your's 


158 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

to viEutant a man to assvme^. After 
drawiag the parallel between i^ivate 
thrift and public profusion, '^ It b " 
(yon coDckide) ^' the highest imper'^ 
^^ tinence and preaaiDption tsberefore 
^^ in kings and ministers to pretend to 
♦* watch over the econamy of private 
'^ people^ and to restrain their expense^ 
** either by sumptuary laws, or by 
*^ prohibiting the importation of fo« 
" reign luxuries. They are themselves 
^* always, and without exception, the 
^* greatest spendthrifts in the society. 
^* Let them look well after their own 
expense, and they may safely trust 
private people with theirs. If their 
^^ own extravagance does not ruin the 
^^ state, that of their subjects never 
« will." 

BL II. ch. iii. vol. ii. p. 27. edit. 8vo. 1764. 


on Pfxfects in Arts^ Xc. . 159 

That the employing the expedients 
you mention for restraining prodiga- 
litj^ is indeed generally^ perhaps ev^t 
without exceptioD, improper^ and in 
floany cases even ridiculous. I agree 
with you : nor will I here step aside 
from my subject to defend from that 
imputation another mode suggested in 
a former part of these papers. But 
bowever presumptuous and imperti« 
nent it may be for the sovereign to at- 
tempt in any way to check by legal 
restraints the prodigality of individaals, 
to attempt to check their bad manage^ 
ment by such restraints^ seems abun* 
dantly more so. To err in the way oS 
prodigality is the lot» thcmgh, as you 
well observe, not of mam/ men, in 
comparison of the whole mass of man- 
kind, yet at least of arty man: the stuff 
fit to make a prodigal of is to be found 
in every alehouse, and under every 



160 Lett. XIII. ToDr.Smkh^ 

kedge. But e?en to err in the way of 
projectiDg is the lot only of the privi- 
leged few. Prodigality^ though not 
8o common as to make any very ma- 
terial drain from the general mass of 
wealthy is however too common to be 
regarded as a mark of distinction or 
as a singularity. But the stepping 
aside from any of the beaten paths of 
trf^c, is regarded as a singularity^ as 
serving to distinguish a man from other 
men. Even where it requires no ge- 
nius^ no peculiarity of talent, as where 
it consists in nothing more than the 
finding out a new market to buy or 
sell in, it requires however at least a 
degree of courage^ which is not to be 
found in the common herd of men. 
What shall we say of it, where, in 
addition to the vulgar quality of cou- 
rage, it requires the rare endowment 
of genius, as in the instance of all those 


m Prqjects in Arts, Xe^ 161 

successive enterprises by which arts 
and manufactures have been brought 
from their original nothing to their 
present splendour ? Think how smatt 
a part of the community these must 
make, in comparison of the race of 
prodigals ; of that very race, whicb> 
were it only on account of the smaU« 
ness of its number, would appear too 
inconsiderable to you to deserve at-» 
tention. Yet prodigality is essentially 
and necessarily hurtful, as far as it goes, 
to the opulence of the state : project- 
ing, only by accident. Every prodi-^ 
gal, without exception, impairs, by the 
very supposition impairs, if he does 
not annihilate, his fortune. But it 
certainly is not every projector that 
impairs his : it is not every projector 
that would have done so, had there 
been none of those wise laws to hih-. 
der him :. for the fabrib of national 



16« Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smithy 

opulence^ that fabric of whtcfa you 
proclaim, with so generous an exulta^ 
tion, the continual increase, that fa* 
brie, in every apartment of which, 
innumerable as they are, it required 
the reprobated hand of a projector to 
lay the first stone, has required some 
hands at least to be employed^ and 
successfully employed. When in com- 
parison of the number of prodigals, 
which is too inconsiderable to deserve 
notice, the number of projectors of 
all kinds is so much more inconsi-^ 
derable — and when from this incon- 
siderable number, must be deducted, 
the not inconsiderable proportion of 
successful projectors — and from this 
remainder again, all those who can 
carry on their projects without need d 
borrowing — ^think whether it be possi- 
ble, that this last remainder could af- 
ford a multitude, the reducing of which 


(m Projects in Arts, &ic. 163 

would be aa object^ deserving the in- 
terposition of government by its mag« 
nitude^ even taking for granted that 
it were an object proper in its na« 

If it be still a question^ whether it 
be worth while for government^ by its 
reason, to attempt to controul the con- 
duct of men visibly and undeniably 
under the dominion of passion, und 
acting under that dominion^ contrary 
to the dictates of their own reason ; in 
shorty to effect what is acknowledged 
to be their better judgment^ against 
what every body, even themselves^ 
would acknowledge to be their worse : 
is it endurable that the legislator 
should by violence substitute his own 
pretended reason, the result of a iho- 
mentary and scornful glance, the off- 
spring of wantonness and arrog^nce^ 
much rather than of social anxiety and 


164 Lett. XIII. To Dr. S^thy 

study, in the place of the hHmble rea- 
son of individuals^ binding itself down 
with all its force to that very object 
which he pretends to have in vi€W ?— - 
Nor let it be forgotten, that, on the side 
of the individual in this strange com- 
petition, there is the most perfect and 
minute knowledge and information, 
which interest, the whole interest of a 
man's reputation and fortune, can en- 
sure : on the side of the legislator, the 
most perfect ignorance. All that he 
knows, all that he can know, is, that 
the enterprize is 9iprq;ect, which, mere- 
ly because it is susceptible of that ob- 
noxious name, h€ looks upon as a sort 
of cock, for him, in childish wanton- 
ness, to shie at. — ^Shall the blind lead 
the blind ? is a question that has been 
put of old to indicate the height of 
folty : but what then shall we say of 

bioi who, being necessarily blind, in<- 


an Prefects in Arts^ Xc. IBS 

»6ts on leading, in paths he never trod 
iuy those who can see ? 

It must be by some distinction too 
fine for my conception, if you clear 
yourself from the having taken, on 
another occasion, but on the very 
point in question, the side, on which 
it would be my ambition to see you 

What is the species of domestic 
industry which his capital can em- 
ploy, and of which the produce is 
^^ likely to be of the greatest value, 
<« every individual" (you say*), "it 
'^ is evident, can, in his local situation^ 
judge much better than any states-* 
man or lawgiver can do for him. 
** The statesman, who should attempt 
" to direct, private people in what 
** manner they ought to employ their 

♦ B. IV. ch. ii. voL ii. p. 182, edit. 8fo. 

^' capitals^ 


166 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

<' capitals, would not only load 
** self with a most unnecessary atten- 
** tion, but assume an authority which 
^ could safely be trusted, not only to 
'^ no single person, but to no council 
^ or senate whatsoever, and which 
'^ would no where be so dangerous as 
^ in the hands of a man who had folly 
'* and presumption enough to fancy 
^^ himself fit to exercise it. 

** To give the monopoly of the 
'* home market to the produce of do- 
^' mestic industry, in any particular 
'^ art or manufacture, is in some mea- 
^' sure to direct private people in what 
'^ manner they ought to employ their 
** capitals, and must in almost all cases 
^' be either a useless or a hurtful regu- 
" latioo/' — ^Thus far you : and I add, 
to limit the legal interest to a rate at 
which the carriers on bf the oldest and 
best-established and least hazardous 


an Prcjects in Art^, SCc. 167 

trades are always glad to borrow^ is to 
give the monopoly of the money-mar- 
ket to Uiose traders^ as against the pro« 
jectors of new-imagined trades, not 
one of which but, were it only from 
the circumstance of its novelty, must, 
as I have already observed, appear 
more hazardous than the old. 

These, in comparison are but in* 
conclusive topics. I touched upon 
them merely as affording, what ap- 
peared to me the only shadow of a 
plea, that could be brought, in defence 
of the policy I am contending s^ainst* 
I come back therefore to my first 
ground, and beg you once more to 
consider, whether, of all that host of 
manufactures, which we both exult in 
as the causes and ingredients of na^ 
tional prosperity, there be a single one, 
that could have existed at first but in 
the shape of a project. But, if a re- 

168 Lett.XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

gulation^ the tendency and effect of 
which is merely to check projects^ 
in as far as they are projects^ without 
any sort of tendency^ as I have shewn, 
to weed out the bad ones^ is defensible 
in its present state of imperfect effica* 
cy^ it should not only have been de- 
fensible, but much more worthy of 
our approbation, could the efficacy of 
it have been so far strengthened and 
compleated as to have opposed, from 
the beginning, an unsurmountable bar 
to all sorts of projects whatsoever: 
that is to say, if, stretching forth its 
hand over the first rudiments of soci" 
ety, it had confined us, from the be^ 
ginning, to mud for our habitations, 
to skins for our cloathing, and to 
acorns for our food. 

I hope you m^y by this time be 
disposed ^o allow me, that we have 
not been ill served by the projects of 


on Projects in Jrts,^ 8(c. 1 69 

time past; I have ^already intimated^ 
that I could not see any reason why 
we should apprehend our being worse 
served by. the projects of time fature. 
I will how venture to add^ th^t I 
think I do. see reason, why we should 
expect to be still better and better 
served by these projects, than by those. 
I mean better upon the whole,- in , vir- 
tue of the reduction which experience^ 
if experience be worth any thiqg, 
should make in the proportion of the 
number of the ill-grounded and unsuc- 
cessful, to that of the well-grounded 
and successful ones. 

The career of artj the great, road 
which receives the footsteps of pro- 
jectors, may be considered as a vast,- 
and perhaps unbounded, plain, be- 
strewed with gulphs, such as Curtius 
was swallowed up in. Each requires 

I an 

170 LfiTT. XllL To Dr. Smith, 

an hifiiiaii viotim' to fall into it ere it 
can close 5 but when It once closes^ it 
tiloim to opett no more, and so much 
of the path Is^ safe^ to those who &>!> 
low; Ifttie want' 6f- perfect informal- 
felon of ibf m^r miscarriages renders the 
teadit^r of human lifib l^s^ happy Hum 
tlfife^ pictuf e> sttlt the 'similhude must 
lie aOknowlibdged^ and we (see at onbe 
the only plain and effbotnal method 
fbf bfmgtn^g that similitude still nearer 
and nearer to perfeotion*; I mean, the 
i^amlttg ihe history of the projects c^ 
tom« past, and (w4)at nbay be executed 
in much greater perfection, were but a 
fiiiger'held up by the hand of govern'- 
ment) the making' provision for re^ 
dotding, and odieotingi and publishing 
as they ate brought forth, . the race of 
those with which tlie womb' of futuri* 
ty is stiH ' pregnant; But to pursue 




on Projects in Arts^ Sic. V^t 

this idea> the execution of which isr 
nofc witbiii itfy competence, would 
lead me tx>o far from- the purpose; 

Cprnforl^^ble it is to reflect^ that thiis 
state of oonttnually-impTOving secu- 
rity, is tlie natural state not only of 
the road to opulence, but of every 
other track of human life. In the war 
which industry and ingenuity main^^ 
tain with fortune, past ages of igno- 
rance and barbarism form the forlorn 
hope, which has been detached in ad- 
vance, and made a sacrifice of for the 
sake of future. The goldeti age, it is 
but too true, is not the lotJ^of the ge- 
neration in which we live: but, if it 
is to be found in any part of the track 
marked out for human existence, it 
will be found, I trust, not in any part 
which is past, but in some part which 
is to come. 

But to return to the laws against 

I 2 usury. 

172 LEtT.XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

usury i and their restraining influence 
on projectors. I haye made it^ I hope, 
pretty apparent; that these restraints 
have no power or tendency to pick 
but bad projects from the good. > Is it 
worth while to add, which I think I 
may do with some truth, that the ten- 
dency of them is rather to pick the 
good out from the bad } Thus much 
at least may be said» and it comes 
to the same thing, that there is one 
case in which, be the project what it 
may, they may haye the effect of 
checking it, and another in which they 
can have qp such effect; and that the 
first has for its accompaniment, and 
that a necessary one, a circumsitance 
which has a strong tendency to sepa- 
rate and discard every project of the. 
injudicious stamp, but which is want- 
ing in the other case. I mean, in a 
word, the benefit of discussion. 


on Prefects in Arts, Xc. 178 

It is evident enough, that upon all 
such, projects^ whatever be- their na* 
tare, as find funds sufficient to carry 
theoi on, in the hands of him whose 
invention gave them .birth, these laws 
are pjerf^ctly, and if by this time you 
.will allow me to say so, very .happily, 
without power. But for these there 
has not necessarily been any other 
judge, prior to experience, than the , 
inventor's p wn partial affection . It is 
not only not necessary that they should 
have had, but it is natural enough 
thai they should not have had, any 
sDcb judge: since in most cases > the 
advantage to be expected from , tbe 
project depends upon the exclusive 
property in it, and consequently 
upon the concealment of the princi- 
ple. Think, on the other hand, how 
different is the lot. of that enterprise 
which depends upon the good opinion 


174 Lett. XIII. 7b i)r.5m(M, 

of anotiier man ; tfamt other, a man pos- 
leased of th6 wealth which the projec- 
tor waDtE> and before whom Deceesit;^ 
forces him to appear in the charactier 
of a suppliant at Jeast : happy H, in 
the imagination of hii judge, he adds 
not to Ihat degrading character, ihat 
of a visionary entbusiastor an impodtori 
At any rate, there are, in this case, two 
wits, set to sift into the merits of the 
project for one, which was employed 
upon that same task in the other case: 
and 'of tbeK two there i^ one, whose 
prejudices are certainly not most like- 
ly to be on the favonrable side. True 
it is, that in the jumble of occurrences, 
an over-sanguine projector may stum- 
ble upon a patron as over-Sangnine a* 
himself; and the wi^es may bribe the 
judgment of the one, as they did ' of 
the other. The opposite case, how- 
ever, you will allow, 1 think, to be by 

an Projects in Aris, SCa 17* 

much the . mone ; natural. . Whatever • a 
man's wishes. tnay be for the isucoeBB of 
an enterprize net ^t(hisx>wii>ihisi£MUNi 
are likely to be «till stranger. That 
same pretty .genemlljr implanted pirin^ 
crple -of canity and .sel£>conceit» 'ivhicb 
disposes most of «s. to o«er-*vaiiie each 
of OS liis own • conoepiionsiy disposes «8^ 
in a proportionable idegsee, <to under* 
value those of otber men. i 

Is it wostfa adding^ ^thdngh it »be 
undeniably trua^ ttratoould itfevenibe 
-proved, .by e^er so nnoontroyertible 
evidence, Abat, from the beginning of 
time to. the, there never 
was a project that -did not terminate in 
the ruin of its author; not even from 
suchaiaetas this, could the legislator 
derive any sufficient warrant, so much 
« fbr wishing to see the spirit of pird- 
jects in any decree repressed ?-^The 
discouraging motto. Sic vos rum wbis, 


176 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

may be matter of serious connderation 
to the individual, but what is it to the 
legislator } What general, let him at- 
tack' with ever so superior an army, 
but knows that hundreds, or perhaps 
thousands, must perish at the first on- 
set ?. Shall he, for that consideration 
{alone, lie inactive in his lines ? *^ Every 
fy man for himself-^but Grod," adds 
the proverb (and it might have added 
the general, and the legislator, and all 
other public servants), ^^ for us all/' 
Those sacrifices of individual to gene- 
ral welfare, which, on so many occa- 
sions, are made by third persons against 
men's wills, shall the parties them- 
selves be restrained from making, when 
they do it of their own choice ? To tie 
men neck and . heels, and throw them 
into the gulphs I have been speaking 
of, is altogether out of the question : 
but if at every gulph a Curtius stands 


w Pngects in Arts, Xc. 1 77 

mounted and caparisoned, ready to 
take the leap/is it for the l^islator, in 
a fit of old-womanish tenderness, to pull 
him away ? Laying even public interest 
ont of the^ question,^ and: considering 
nothitig but the feelings of the indivi- 
. duals immediately concerned, a legis- ^ 
lator would scarcely do so, who knew 
the value of hope, << the most preqious 
" gift of heaven." 

Consider, Sir, that it is not with the . 
inv^tion-lottery (that great branch: of 
the project lottery, for the sake of 
which I am defending the whole, and 
must continue so to do until you- or 
somebody else can shew me how ^ to 
defend it on. better temis), it is not I 
say with. the. invention-lottery, as with 
the mine-lottery, the privateerings 
lottery, and so many other lotteries, 
which you speak of, and in no instance, 
I think, very much to their advantage. 

13 In 

178 iMTT.XllI.To Dr.iSmiih, 

In these ]ines, success d«e6 not, ai in 
this, arise odt of the -embers of ill sac* 
cess, and thence propagate itself, by a 
happy coDtagioa, perhaps to all eter- 
Dity. Let Titins have found aimine, 
it is not the more easy, but by so much 
the less easy, for SemproDiUB to find 
one too : let Titius have made a cap- 
ture, it is not the more eaSy, hut by so 
much the less easy, for Sempronius to 
do the like. But let Titius have found 
oat a new dye, more brilliantof mors 
durable than those in use, let him have 
invented a new and more convenient 
maohiDe,oranew and more profitable 
mode of husbandry J a thousand dyers, 
ten thousand mechanics, a hundred 
thousand husbandmen, may repeat and 
multiply tns success ,: and then, what, 
.is it to the public, though the for- 
tune of Titius, or of his usurer^ 

an^ Prefects in Arts, Kc. 179t 

should ba?e sunk mid^r jthe eKpe«i 
riment? - 

Birminghani and Sheffield are pitch- 
ed upon b^ yau a$ ei^amples^ the one 
of a proJ£ciiag town^ the ^Iher of sA 
HnprojeotiDg oiie^. Can you forgive 
my sayings 1 rather wonder that this 
comparison of your own choosingi did 
not suggest some suspicions of the jus-^ 
tioe of the conceptions you had tttkea 
up^ to the disadvantage of projectors^' 
Sheffield is an old oak : Birminghi^,. 
but a mus.hroom. What if we should 
find the mushroom still vaster and 
more vigorous than the oak? Not but 
the one aS: well as the other> at what 
time soever planted:^ mu^st equally 
have been panted by projectors : for 
though Tubal Cain himself were to 

♦ B. L «h. X. toL i. p. 176. edit. 8va 1784. 


180 Lett, XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

be brought post from Armenia td 
plant Sheffield, Tubal Cain himself 
was as arrant a projector in his day, 
as ever Sir Thomas Lombe was, or 
bishop' Blaise: but Birmingham; it* 
seems, claims in common parjlance 
the title of a projecting town, (o the 
exclusion of the other, because, beings 
but of yesterday, the spirit of project 
smells fresher and stronger there than 

« When the -odious sound of the 
word projector no longer tingles in 
your ears, the race of men thus stig- 
matized do not always find you their 
enemy. Projects, even under the name 
of *^ dangerous and expensive expert- 
^' ments,'' are represented as not unfit 
to be encouraged; even though mon- 
opoly be the means : and the monopoly 
is defended in that instance, by its si- 

im Prqjects in Arts, 8(c. 181 

milarity ta other instances in i/vtiich 
the like ineans are enij[»loyed to the 
like purpose. 

^' When a company of merchants 
^^ undertake at their own risk and a- 
^^ pense to establish a new trade, with 
*^ some remote and barbarous nation^ 
<' it may not be unreasonable" (you 
observe) ^' to incorporate them into 
'^ a joint-stock company, and to grant 
^^ them, in case of their success, a 
*< monopoly of the trade ibr a cer^n 
^< number of years. It is' the easiest 
** and most natural way, in which the 
*' state can recompense them, for hac 
zarding a dangerous and expensire 
experiment, of which the public is 
<* afterwards to reap the benefit. ' A 
temporary monopoly of this kind 
may be vindicated, upon . the same 
^ principles, upon which a like mdn* 
<< opoly of a new machine is granted to 

'* its 


18S Lett.XIII. ToDr.Smitiiy 

** itt iniBentor, and that of a new bocdc 
«^ to its ttukhor." 

Private respect mu9t not steip me 
from embracing this ^occasion of giv- 
iBg a wamingi which is fio much iiead^ 
ed by mankind. If ao original and 
independent a spirit has not been al^ 
ways able to save itself from beipg; 
drawn awle by the fascination of 
sounds^ into the paths of vulgar pre-» 
judice^ how strict a watch ought noib 
mm of common- mould to set over 
Aeir judigments, to save themselyes 
from being Jed a^tr!ay by similar de- 

I have sometimes been tempted to 
think» that were it in the power of la^^ 
to put words under proscription, as it 
is to put mieny iht cause of inventive in^ 
dtt^ry might perhaps denve scarcely 
less assistance from a bill of attainder 
agaimt the words jdro^ec^ wAprqfectorsi 



'" mi Prefects in Jlrh^ Xt. . ISS 

than it las derived -Aoni'the adt ka^ 
thorizing the grant X)f rpatonts. 1 
sbonld ^dd> 'bowevery Ifinr a ttatle r for 
even then the ettvy^-and ¥aiiii^»aiid 
wottnded pnde, of 4be nrnogeniow 
herd, would 'sdoner'or hiter infase 
thi»r venoao into soiile -other woid» 
and set it up as a new tynM^ lolu>ver» 
like its predeoessor, over the birth of 
infant genius^ and omsh it in iU draix 

Will not you accuse me of rpusbing 
malice beyond all bounds, if i brinf; 
down agakist you bo mimerous :and fo^ 
spectable a body of men, as the inenii» 
bers of the Society for the Encourngd* 
ment of Arts f I do not, mu&t nwt^ 
care : for you command too much ise^ 
spect to have any claim to mer^. At 
least you will hot accuse me of spirit- 
ing up against you barbarian enemies;^ 



184 LETt.XIII; ToDr.SmUfH 

and devoting yob to the vengeluice. of 
Cherokees and Chicasaws.l ^ ■ 

' Of that popular institution, the very 
professed and capital olgect is the 
encouragement of profects, and the 
propagating of that obnoxious, breed; 
the c^uvhing of which you command 
as a fit exercise, for the arm of power. 
But if it be right to crush the acting 
malefactors,, it: would, be do-wnrigfat 
inconsistency not to crush, at the same 
time, ' or rather not to begin with 
crushing,. these their hirers and abet* 
tors. Thank then their, inadvertence, 
or their generosity, or their prudence, 
if their beadle has not /yet receive 
orders to burn in ceremony, as a libel 
on the society, a book that does ho- 
nour, to the age. 

'.After having had the boldness to 
accuse so great a master of having 
1 > fallen 

an Projects in Arts, He. 185 

fidlen unawares into an error, may I 
take the still fartiier liberty, of setting 
conjecture to work to account for it ? 
Scarce any man, perhaps no man, can 
push the work of creation, iii any line, 
to siich a pitch of compleatness, as- to 
bave gone through the task of examiii>» 
ing with his own eyes into the groundsr 
of every position, without exception, 
*wbich he has had. occasion to emptoft. 
Yott heard the public. voice, strengtiir 
ened by that of law, proclaiming ail 
round you, that usury was a sad thing, 
and usurers a wicked aiid pernicious 
set of men: you heard from' one at 
least of those quarters, that projectors 
were either a foolish and contemptible 
race, or a knavish and destructive one: 
Hurried away by the throng, and tak- 
ing, very naturally, for granted, that 
what every body said must- have sdm« 
froqud for it, you hav'e joinied. the cry. 

186 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

&Dd added your suffrage to the rest. 
Possibly too, among the crowd of pro- 
jectors which the lottery of occurrences 
happened to present to your observa- 
tion, the prejudicial sort may liave 
borne such a proportion to the bene- 
ficial, or shewn themselves in so much 
stronger colours, as to have given the 
popular notion a firmer hold in your 
judgment, than it would have had, bad 
the contrary proportion happened to 
present itself to your notice. To al- 
low no more weight 'o examples that 
fall close under our eyes, than to those 
which have fallen at ever so great & 
distance — to suffer the judgment on no 
occasion to indulge itself in the licence 
of a too hasty and extensive generali- 
zation — not to give any proposition 
footing there, till after al! such defal- 
cations have been made, as are neces- 
sary to reduce it within the limits of 


an Frcjects in Jrts, Kc. 18? 

rigid trath-«^these are laws, ftbe cMfil^ 

ple$|t ob^rvi^nce wheraof forms the ilU 

tiiiiate> aad hitherto, perhaps for efw^ 

ideal term of human Wisdom. ^ 

^ You h^vedefendedi against unmevit^ 

ed obloquy two classes :^ihen^ Hhe ^on6 

ionooent dt leadt, the^dther hrgUl]rllM^ 

fill.; the spreaders of EngUi^ arts im 

foreigQ cliittes^; and :fiiose: whose in- 

flQStry egcecto: itsfelf in < distributing that 

nfioessary oomihodity wbicb is >iialled 

by the way of emin^ice' the ' staff of 

life. May I flatter mysetf with .having 

tttoseeded -at last in 'my ^ndeavont^^ 

tomoonnBiend <to the fsame powerliEdi 

pffdtection/ /two other highly us^fttl 

mod equally ^rseotit^ sets of m^v 

iisucere and projectors. — Yes-^I wilU 

for the moment at leasl^ indulge 9a 

• B. IV. ch. yiii. toL ii. p. 514. ei diBi, edit. 
Arp, 1784. 


188 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

flattering an idea : and^ in pursuance 
•of it^ leaving usurers, for whom I hare 
said enongh already, I will consider 
myself as joined now with you in the 
same commission, and thinking with 
you of the best means of relieving the 
projector from the load of discoun^ei^ 
mmaX laid on him by these laws, in so 
far as the pressure of them falls parti* 
cularly upon him. In my own. view 
of the matter, indeed, no tempera* 
ment, no middle course, is eitlrar vi^ 
cessary .or. proper: the only. perfectly 
effectual, is the only perfectly proper 
remedy, — a spunge. But, as nothing 
is more common with manjkind, than 
\o g^ve opposite receptions, tocou^ 
elusions flowing with equal necessity 
from the sagie principle, let us ac* 
commodate our views to that con- 

According to this idea, the object. 

ifn Prqfects in Aris, 8[c: 169 

45 far as confined to ihe present case; 
should be, to provide, in favour of 
projectors only, a dispensation from 
the dgour of the antirusurious laws: 
soich, ibr instance, as is enjoyed by 
persons engaged in the carrying trade^ 
m virtue of the indulgence . given to 
loans made on the footing of respond 
dentia QT bottomry. As to abuse, I 
see not why the danger of it should be 
greater in this case than in those. Whe- 
ther a sum of money be embarked, or 
not embarked, in such or such a new 
manufacture on land, should not, in its 
owu nature, be a fact much more dif- 
ficult to ascertain^ than whether it be 
embarked, or not embarked, in such 
or such a trading adventure by sea: 
and, in the one case as in the other, 
the payment of the interest, as well as 
the repayment, of the: principal,, might 
be made to depend upon the success 



190 Lett. XIII. To Dr. Smith, 

of tbe adrenture. To confine tbe 
indulgende to new nodeKakings, the 
baving obtained a patent for some iil- 
rentiont and', tbe continuance of fhe 
teem- of the patent, might be m^e 
CMiditions of the iJlowance given to 
tiie bargain : to this might' be added 
affidavits, eKpressire of the intended 
dpplioatioD^ and bonds, with sureties, 
condttioned for the performance of 
the int^itionso'declared; to be regis- 
tered m^one of tfae patent-offices, or 
elsewhere. After this^ affidavits once 
EMyear, or- oftener, during the subsist- 
ence of > the contract> declaring what 
has^beeo done in execution of it. 

If the leading-string is not yet 
thought tight enoughj boards of con- 
troul might be instituted to draw it 
tighter. Then opens a scene of vexa- 
tion BDd'intrigne: waste of time con- 
sDmed in courting the favour of the 




#^ Prefects in Aris, Kc. 191 

^etnbers: o£ . the board): waste of 
time^ ilk opeomg their understaadings^ 
nrlendifidcperfaftpBbyignoraqce^ at any 
laten hy i dtsdaini and : seUwiufficieiicy^ 
9mA Yanit^^ aod^pruiB:: the^£Ei¥our'(£nr 
pridei will maker it? a £uroup) granted 
to, flhill; im tjie eite.ofi selff»comiiieii«- 
datioii and. oabal^ devoid of) inventive 
merits and nefused « to naked merit un*- 
odorned bf praotice in -Ihose arts: 
waste of time on the; part .of the pen^ 
sons themselves engaged in this imper- 
tinent inquiry : waste of « somebody's 
money in paying them for this waste 
of time. All these may be neoessary 
evils, where the money to be bestowed 
is public money t how idle where it is 
the party's own ! — I will not plague you, 
nor myself, with enquiring of whom 
shall be composed this board of nurses 
to grown gentlemen : were it only to 
cut the matter short, one might name 


19£ Lett. XIII. To Br. Smth. 

at once the committees of the Society 
jpf Arte. There you , have > body of 
men ready trained in the conduct of 
inquiries, which resemble that in ques- 
tion, in every circumstance, but that 
which renders it ridiculous : the mem- 
bers or representatives of this demo- 
cratic, body would be as likely, I take 
it, to discharge such a trust with fide* 
lity and skill, as any aristocracy that 
could be substituted in their room. 

Crichqf, . 
in White Russia, 
March, 1787. 


C 19(5 3 





Lett. I. Introdudum. 

TflK liberty of bai^aining in moDey-matters, 
a species of liberty which has never yet found 
an advocate, p. 1 

Fixing the- rate of interest^ being a coercive 
measure, and an exception to the general 
fule in favour of the enforcement of contracts, 
it lies Bpon the advocates of the measure to 
produce reasons for it p. 3 

Lfstof the reasons which may be supposed to have 
operated in favour of it, . . • « • « p. 4 

Lett. II. Reasons for Restraint. — 
1 . Prevention of Usury. 

Arguments in favour of the restraint. 1. Pre* 

K veution 

194r Letters in Defence of Usury, 

ventioQ of Uiiury. This begs the ques* 
tion, * . ; . p. 7 

No one rate of inter^t is naturally more proper 
than another^ . p. 9 

No idea of propriety could haee been formed on 
this head, but for Ciostom, . . . . . ^ibid* 

But the rate indicated by custom, varies from 
age to age, and from place to place, . . p. 11 

Custom, being generated by convenience, evi- 
denced by con8ent> should submit to it 

throughout, p*l^ 

No more reason for filing the price of the use of 

money than the price of goods, . . • p. IS 
—-nor for fixing the rate on one side more than 

on the other — excepting a weak and distant 

one, p. 15 

Lett. III. Reasons for Restraint. — 
2. Prevention of Prodigality. 

Interposing at all, to prevent prodigality, is not 
necessaty to the existence of society, . p. 17 

— though it may be of use, choosing proper 
methods, p. 18 

This not of the number : 

1. Because borrowing at extraordinary rates 






Is not a natural course for prodigals to 
take, ..." p. 18 

It is out of the question with regard to^ 

a. Those who have money of their own^ . p. 19 

b. Those who have real or good security to 
. ofifer, • . . > iifiiL 

c. Or any thing to sell, though it be but a 
contingency, p. 33 

3. Those who have no sufficient security to offer, 
are not more likely to get money at an eztra- 
ordinary> than at the ordinary rate, • • p.34 

What they do get, they get at the ordinary 
rate, of their friends, . . • . . . .p. 35 

3. Preventing their getting what they want at 
a high rate, in the way of borrowing, prevents 
not their getting it in the way of taking up 
goods on credit, . p. 36 

Conclusion, that the effect of these laws with 
regard to prodigality, as far as it has aby, is 
to increase it, • . p. SO 

The only effectual check to prodigality^ an <n- 
terdict, as under the Roman law, . . p. 31 

K 3 Lett. 

196 Letters in Defefice (^ Usury. 

Lett. IV. Reasons for BestrainL— 

3. Protection of Indigence. 

The advantage it may be of to a man to borrow 
money, and the need he may have of it, ad- 
mittiag of an undetermined number of de- 
gsee%, so may the consideration he pays for 
it, p.3S 

SiTe legislator can judge, so well as each indivi- 
dual for himself, whether money is worth to 
bkn any thing, and how much, beyond the 
ordinary interest, p. S7 

Repression of projectors. — ^This subject referred 
to the letter t9 Dr. Smith, p. 99 

Lett. V. Reasons for Restraint.—^ 

4. Protection of Simplicity. 

I<^0 simplicity short of idiotiam can render an 
individual so bad a judge in this case as the 
legislated, p.d9 

It VHnAA be to no purpose to prevent a man from 

being imposed upon ki this way, unless he was 

prevented from being imposed upon in pur* 

. chases and sales, ibid. 


A man 



A mah is not so liable to imposition in this way 
as in'th68e> p. 41 

And in this way imprudeiicd admiti of a r«^ 
medy, whkh it dot& iieC in thoiHi dher^; tiz. 
borrowing at a lower rate to pay off the trst 
ieai}> . . < « / . p.44 

Lett. VI. Mischiefs qf the anti-usii* 

rious Lazvs. 

Various ways in which the laws against usury 
may domitfohief: 

1. By precluding^ maiiy frol» assistance altoge- 
ther/ . « / p. 45 

S. Forcing men upon more disadvantageous 

ways of obtaining it, • ... • . p, 47 

Detriment suffered in this way by many 

during the war, p. 49 

3. Or upon more disadvantageous terms in the 

very way forbidden, pt 53 

In as far as the law appears open to evasion, 

it is either nugatory, or else mischievous, 
in any one of those three ways, accord- 
ing to circumstances, p. 56 

4. Exposing an useful cl^s of men to unmerited 
suffering and disgrace, p. 57 

5. Encou- 

1S)8 Letters im Defence of Usury. 

5. Eoeomragiiig and protecting treachery and 
ingratitude^ p. 60 

Di£Ea«noe in this respect between the rewards 
hdd out to informers in this case, and those 
Md o«t to infiNrmen at laige, . . . t^d. 

— or even to real criminals informing against 
accomplices, ibid. 

Cantimi against extending to those cases the cen- 
sure passed on this occasion, .... p. 61 

Lett. VII. Efficacy of the anti-usu- 
rious Laws. 

Position of Br. Smith's, that a law attempting 
to reduce interest below a certain rate must 
be inefficacious, p. 63 

The position not warranted by the fact alleged 
in support of it, p. 63 

Nothing can destroy the efficacy of such restraint 
in regard to one rate of interest, that does not 
in regard to others, ....... p. 65 

Why such destruction would be more apparent 
with regard to one rate than another, . p. ^ 

Conjecture concerning the real state of the fact, 
in the instance alluded to by Dr. Smith, . p. 68 



The English laws on tbis^ bead bow far open to 
erasion^ p. 70 

'Bussian laws^ tbeir perfect inefficacy on this 
head, »^ ; . . • • p. 71 

Lett. VIII. Virtual Usury allowed. 

Cases where interest above the ordinary rate has 
been taken by evasion of the law : 

1. Drawing and re-drawing« . » . . p. 73 

^^ Selling bills of exchange at under price> p. 75 

Cases where it. is taken by allowance of the 

1. Pawnbroking> ........ p. 78 

2. Bottomry and respondentia^ . . • • p. 80 

Other cases more indirectly related to usury, such 
as insurance, buying annuities, &c» • p. 89 

Lett. IX. Blackstqne considered. 

tn Blackstone's opinion, the harm of making 
too hard a bargain stands on the sa^oA 
footing in the hire of a horse as of 

. money, ........... p..84 


StOO Letters in Defence cf Usury. 

JS ,9^ eonsiiteii^jf neqtilres the tulycctiiig boCh 
biisinjessei to tbe aan^ restraints^ . • p. 85 

P0f ulftr pr4^\fdice has got the length of giriuig 
.bad names in jbotb cases, , • « ^ . p. 87 

Blackstone's reasoning concerning tbe money- 
trade ippUed to tbe iMve^rad^ . . p, 88 

Proposal for fixing by law tbe same price for all 
horses, p. 9S 

'Pie values of borses differ not more' tban the 
▼akie of money on difierent occasions, • Aid. 

Lett. X. Grotmds of the Prejudices 

against Usury. 

Causes of the discountenance shewn to the lender 
of money at interest : 

1. Tbe preyalence of the ascetic principle among 
Christians, p. 96 

^. The horror of every thing Jewish v • p. 98 

B. Aristotle's aphorism about the natural bar-> 
rennesa of money* .. « . . \ . . p. 99 

4f, The motif«s, idiih a» well a^ soeM, witkh 
concur ift rendernig the profuse charaeter 
tpre amiable than tbe saving, ; • • p. 103 

A proof 

/ y 




A procf of this, the unfavourable hght in which 
mamty-^eaief^, and othe/ men of thiift, sire 
always represented on the stage, . • p. 106 

Hence^ even from legislators, the lender^s inte- 
rest has met with less attention and favour 
than the borrower's, p. 107 

Yet by this partiality the parties meant to 
be favoured, have been the greatest suf- 
ferers, ' . • p. 109 

' Lett. XI. Compound Interest. 

Compound interest, how hx dtscoMtenanei^ by 
the law, p. 110 

No argument against it, but the notion of usury, 
orthat of hardship, ' p. Ill 

Inconsistency and mischief of such discounte- 
nance^ . .' ibid. 

Tlie casual ioabihty of the borrower- is a^reasoti, 
not for such discountenance, but for a respite, 
which the law never gives, . . . • p. 114 

fifieets of such ^ilse tenderness in breeding nuUd 
. jMedekiys p, 115 



s^ p.ia 

LETT. Xai. ?:■ ^. SmUk m Fro- 
•etts 'it Jns, -{c. 

p. IS 


n whidi Dr. Smith approves of the Ian 
fixing the rate of interest, on account of its 
tendencf to repress them, .... p. 133 

Pr^ndice under which they labour, . . p. 134 

TThe law, and therefore the censure past on them 
by the, approbation given to that law, admits 
of nodiscriminatioa in farour of the innocent 
and meritorious, . p. 136 

The projector cannot hope for money at the 
highest rate of interest at present legal, be- 
cause thai may always be had with more safety 
from old-established trades, . ... p. 140 

The censure on prelectors necessarily involves the 
authors of all the arts to which the worid owes 
its prosperity, p. 144 

And the laws, the approbation of which is con- 
nected with that censure, must, as far as their 
influence has extended, have operated as ob- 
stacles to that prosperity, . . > . . p. .145 

Another passage, in which the censure passed 
on projectors is plainly extended to all im- 
provers p. 147 

llie censure passed on projectors is inconsist- 
ent with some fundamental ideas of .I>r. 

Smith, > p. 148 



206 Letters in Defence of Usury. 

Censure passed on projectors hostile to the object 
of the Society of Arts, p. 183 

Probable grounds of this censure: 

1. Popular opinion, as expressed by the bad 
sense contracted by the word "Projector,'' 

p. 185 

3. Too hasty generalization, ..... p. 186 

Hopes of his turning against the current of popu- 
lar prejudice, in thb instance, grounded on the 
others in which he has done so, . . . p. 187 

Expedients proposed for taking away the re- 
straint of the anti-usurious laws from projectors 


1. Bonds and affidavits to secure the applying 
the money obtained at extra-interest to this 
use, p. 190 

3. Boards to grant licences for that purpose ; 
ex. gr. the, Committees of the Society of 
Arts, Ufid. 

This a bad and unnecessary expedient, • ibid^ 














OF Lincoln's inn^ esq. 














OF Lincoln's inn, esq. 

.•«• ■ '*k 'd^ 



L A W - T A X E S. 

AXES on law -proceedings consti- 
tute in niiany, and perhaps in all na- 
tions, a part of the resources of the 
state. They do so in Great Britain : 
they do so in Ireland. In Great Bri- 
tain, an extension of them is to be 
found among the latest productions 
of the budget: in Ireland, a further 
extension of them is among the mea>* 
sures of the day. It is this impending 
extension that calls forth the publica- 
tion of the present sheets, the substance 


6 Th CMttibutony 

ordinary bnrthen.* Most taxes are, 
as all ' taxes ought to be, taxes upon 
ai&uence : it 15 the cbaracteristio pro- 
perty of this to be a tax upon distress. 

A tax on bread, though a tax oii 
consumption, would hardly be reckon-* 
ed a good tax; bread being reckon^' 
ed in most countries where it is used, 
among the necessaries of life. A lax 
on bread, however, would not be near 
so bad a tax as one on law^proceedings : 
A man who pays to a tax On bread, 
may, indeed, by reason of such pay-* 
ment, be unable to get so much 
bread as he wants, but he will always 
get some bread, and in proportion as 
he pays nK)re and mote to the tax, he 

• ^ven in the instance of a defendant, or 
when the wrong is not pecuniary, the hardship 
of a double yoke does not cease : for the natural 
expense of litigation is a harthen which this 
artificial one finds pressing on him in any case. 


A Tax upon Distress. 7 

will get more and more bread. Of a 
tax upon justice, the effect may be, 
Uiat after he has paid the tax, he may, 
withitMit gettiug justice by the pay<* 
QEient, lose bread by it : bread, the 
Tpfaole quantity on which be depended 
for the subsistence of faiaisdf and his 
family £br the season, aaay, as well as 
any thing else, be the very thing for 
which he is obliged to apply to jus* 
tice. Were a tlnree«>penoy stamp io b^ 
put apoa every three-penny loaf, ^ 
man who haid but threenpence to spend 
iiEi thread, cbuid no longer indeed get 
a three-peimy loaf, but an obltging 
baker could cut him out the half ^ 
one. A tax on justice admits of no 
such fetpenchaient The most oblig* 
ing stationer bouid not cut a man out 
half a latitat nor half a declaration. 
Half justice, where it is to be bad, is 
better than no justice : but without 


8 To Contributors^ 

buying the whole weight of paper» 
there is no getting a grain of justice. 

A tax on necessaries is a tax on this 
or that article, of the commodities 
which happen to be numbered among 
necessaries : a tax on justice is a tax 
on all necessaries put together. A 
tax on a necessary of life can only 
lessen a man's share of that particular 
sort of article : a tax on justice may 
deprive a man, and that in any pro* 
portion, of all sorts of necessaries. 

This is not yet the worst. It is not 
only a burthen that comes in the train 
of distress, but a burthen against which 
no provisioh can be made. 

All other taxes may be either fore- 
seen as to the time, or at any rate pro- 
vided for, where general ability is not 
wanting : in the instance of this tax, 
it is impossible to foresee the moment 
of exaction, it is equally impossible to 


A Tax upon Distress. d 

provide a fund for it. A tax to be 

paid upon the loss of a husband, or of 

a father on whose industry the family 

depended) a tax upon those who have 

suffered by fire or inundation would 

seem hard, and I know not that in fact 

any such modes of taxation have -ever 

been made choice of: but a tax on 

law-proceedings is harder than any of 

these. Against all those misfortunes^ 

provision may be made; it is actually 

made in different ways by insurance : 

and) were a tax added to them, pay so 

much more, and you might ensure 

yourself against the tax. Against the 

misfortune of being called upon to in* 

stitute or defend one's self against a 

suit at law, there neither is, nor can be, 

any office of insurance,* 

* I lay there never can be : in those othet* in- 
•tances the event insured against is always some 
very simple event, such as the death of a person^ 


i206 Letters in Defence of Usury. 

Censure passed on projectors hostile to the object 
of the Society of Arts, ...... p. 183 

Probable grounds of this censure r 

1. Popular opinion, as expressed by the bad 
sense contracted by the word "Projector,^ 

p. 185 

2. Too hasty generalization, . . , . . p. 186 
Hopes of his turning against the current of popu- 
lar prejudice, in this instance, grounded on the 
others in which he has done so, . . . p. 1S7 

Expedients proposed for taking away the re- 
straint of the anti-usurious laws from projectors 

1. Bonds and affidavits to secure the applying 
the money obtained at extra-interest to this 
use, p. 190 

3. Boards to grant licences for that purpose ; 
ex. gr. the, Committees of the Society of 
Arts, Ufid.. 

This a bad and unnecessary expedient, . ibid*. 








•tut. EXPEVSE 


OF Lincoln's ink, eso. 



Taxes on law-proceedings consti- 
tute in rtiany, and perhaps in all na- 
tions, a part of the resources of the 
state. They do so in Great Britain : 
they do so in Ireland. In Great Bri- 
tain, an extension of them is to be 
found among the latest productions 
of the budget : in Ireland, a further 
extension of them is among the inea> 
sures of the day. It is this impending 
extension that calls forth the publica- 
tion of the present sheets, the substance 

14 To Non- Coniributofs, 

doom upon tfaousands, not to say mil-^ 
lioDs^ of innocent and injured subjects, 
without consideration or remorse. 

Mark well, that of all sorts of men, 
it is the poor, and they the more cer- 
tainly in proportion to their poverty, 
that are despoiled in this way of the 
protection of the law : the protection 
of the law« that inestimable jewel, 
which in the language of that very 
law is defined the citizen's universal 
and best birth-right: the poor and 
him that has none to help him, these 
are they to whom the help of the law 
is thus unfeelingly refused. The rich, 
were it from them that this great safe- 
guard were withholden, have shields 
of their Qwn to ward oflF the attacks of 
injury : the natural influence of wealth, 
the influence of situation, the power 
of connexion, the advantages of edu- 
cation, and intelligence;^ which go 



A Denial of Justice. 15 

hand in hand with wealth. The poor 
has but one strong hold, the protec- . 

tion of the law : and out of this the 
fina^ncier drive's him without vouch- 
safing him a thought, in company 
with the herd of malefactors. 

The poor^ on account of the igno- 
rance and intellectual incapacity inse- 
parably attached to poverty^ are de- 
barred generally^ as perhaps it is ne- 
cessary, were it only for their own 
sake, they should be universidly, from 
the sweets of political power : but are 
not so many unavoidable inequalities 
enough, without being added to by 
unnecessary injustice ? 

Such is the description of those 
from whom this sum total of all rights 
is torn away with one hand, while ten- 
dered with the other : what are their 
numbers in proportion to the sum to- 
tal of subjects I I fear to sfty — ^perhaps 




16 To Nanr Contributors, 

two thirds, perhaps four fifths, per? 
haps nine tenths : but at the lowest 
computation a vast majority.^ 

A third 

* In England^ the expense of carrying through 
s common action, cannot be less than about 241. 
at the lowest rate, on the plaintiff's side alone. 
[See Sdiieffer on Costs, 1793.] The arerage 
expense of civil .suits of all sorts, taking equity 
causes into the account, can surely not be rated 
at less than double that amount, on that one 
side. The average expenditure of an English 
suliriect, infants and adults, rich as well as poor, 
Udsen together, has been computed by Davenant 
(as quoted on this occasion somewhere by Adam 
Smith) at 8L a year. Six years income then u 
what a man must have in advance, before he can 
be admitted to take his chance for justice. Of 
many estimates which Dr. Anderson had met 
with, SOI. was the highest, and he takes but teiv 
pounds. [Interest of Great Britain with regard 
to her colonies^ London, 1793.] No man then 
we may say at any rate, can have the benefit of 
justice, in the ordinary way, either in making 
good a just claim, or saving himself from an un- 

A Denial of Jmtke. 17 

A third description of persons majr 
yet be distinguished, whose conditioa 
under the system of law taxes is still 
more deplorable than that of either of 
the other two. I mean those^ who 
having wherewithal to pay the impo^ 
8i|ion at the commencement of the 
suit, and during more or less of its 
progress^ see their substance swallowed 
up by the taxes before the terminatiou 
of it. The twpprMeding modifica» 
tions of abuse^ )^t^;0f tbe^n bad 
enough, are thus put togettqir^ aii4 

compounded into a thir4« -x^-r* 

Considered with a tiew4o the trea^ . . 

ment given to persons 'of thifs.descrap- 

jiut one^ who cannot find^ for this purpose alon^ 
a sum equal to several years of a man's income. 
From this statement it needs not much study to 
perceive, that for the bulk of the community^ as 
far as ordinary cases of the civil kind att con- 
cerned, jfiidc? is but an empty name* 


18 They even deny Justice, 

tion, a coort of justice is converted in^ 
to exactly the same sort of place, as 
the shop of a baker would be^ who 
having ranged his loaves along his 
window in goodly shew to invite cos- 
tomers» should, instead of selling them 
the bread they asked for, first rob 
theni of their money, and then turn 
them out of doors. To an unpreju- 
diced imagination, the alliance be- 
tween justice and finance, presents on 
this occasion a picture almost too near 
the truth to be termed an apologue. 
At the door of a house more preda- 
tory than any of those that are called 
houses of ill fame, the Judge in his 
robes presenting to unsuspecting pas- 
sengers a belt to prick in ; the Ijord 
High Treasurer in the back ground 
with his staff*, lying in wait, ready as 
soon as the victims are fairly housed, 
find the money on the table, to knQck 


where they have taxed Distress. 1 9^ 

ihem dawn and run away with it. The 
difference is, that any man may ch^se 
whether ' he will prick in the belt of 
the unlicensed sharper, nor arQ any 
but the rawest louts to be so deluded : 
whereas the wisest men may be iiiveK 
gled in^ as well as the stoutest drag-* 
ged in, by the exalted and commis^ 
sioned plunderers-r—so much Surer 
is their game. — For were the list of 
law taxes ever so familiar, and ever so 
easy to be understood^ it is impossible- 
for a man to know before hand, whe» 
ther he has wherewithal to pay the 
biU, because it is impossible for him- 
to know what incidents may intervene- 
to lengthen it. Were a man even to 
sit down, -and form a resolution to sub^ 
nxit to every injury which he could^ 
not afford to prosecute for,, and ta 
plead guilty to every accusation whit^h 
be could not afford to defend himself 

L 3 against,^ 

^■^••■''-^••^■^^■P"^ ' ' t^t^^m^mtmfmammmm 

90 T%tjf even deny Justice^ 

against, eren at this price he could 
ikot M¥e himself from the hardship of 
paying for ju$lice» aggravated by the 
still greater hardship of not getting it. 
If in all cases the practice is wicked, 
]Q some it is more particularly prepos* 
terous. In civil causes, and other 
causes where the injury to individuals 
affords a natural interest to prosecute, 
artificial expenses are cruelty and 
breach of faith : in a large class of pe- 
na,l causes, in which for want of such 
natural interest, prosecutors must be 
engaged by factitious inducements, or 
the law be a dead letter, the cruelty 
and treachery are crowned by blunder 
and inconsistency. ' Beckoned into 
court with one hand, men are driven 
away with the other. But, costly as the 
attractive power frequently is, the re- 
pulsive force is apt to be much stronger. 
Rewai^d is subsequent, distant, uncer- 
tain, and dependent upon success. 


where thejf have taxed Distress. 91 

Trouble, expense, and odium, are cer- 
tain and precedent.^ . 

In favour of this species of imposi- 

* His speeies of tax would stand absolutely 
done in point of depravity, were it not for the 
tax on drugs, as far at it extends, to those used ia 
medicine. This, as being also a tax upon dis- 
tress, is so far in specie the same> but is nothing 
to it in degree. To recover a shilling in the 
way of justice, it will cost you at least 241. of 
which a good part in taxes: but to be admitted: 
to buy a shiHing^s worth of medicine for a shil- 
hng, it does not cost yon threepence. Hospi-^ 
tals for the sick are not uncommon r there are 
none for harassed and impoverished suitors* / 
There are Lady Bauntifuls that relieve the sick 
firom the tax on medicines, and the price of them 
into the bargain : but a Lady Bountiful must be 
bountiful indeed, to take the place of attorney 
and counsel, as well as of physician and apothe-^ 
cary, and supply a poor man with as many 
^, pounds worth of latUatM and pleas, as he must 
have to recover a shilling. A man cannot, as 
we have seen, insure himself against law suits : 
Imt a man may insure himself, and many tiSou- 
sands actually do insure themselves, against sick* 
ness. But these reliefs are neither certain nor 

general ;: 

aa They throw the Burthen^ 

tioD^ I have seen two arguments pro- 

One is, that in this case as in others, 
the burthen of an establishment ought 
to lie on those by whom the benefit is 
reaped. The principle is incontrover- 
tible : the matter of fact supposed by 
the application of it is not true. 

The argument, were it just, would 
not extend beyond so much of the 
produce of the tax as is requisite for 
defraying the charge of this part of the 
national establishment. Whether it be 
confined or no within these bounds, 
was perhaps never thought worth en- 
general : and after all, a lax on him who baa 
had a leg or an arm broken, a tax on bim who 
has had a fit of the ague, gout, rheumatism, or 
stone, will be the worst possible species of tax, 
next to a tax on justice. 

. N. B. The tax on quack medicines, that is, 
on unknown and unapproved medicines, leav- 
ing aU known and approved ones untouched, 
611s hi a less degree, if at all, under this censure. 


MMi.^M| ^^,.^k^..,^_^^^^gg^ 

where there is least Benefit. S3 

quiring into, in any country where this 
.tax was . iniposed. : It certainly ex- 
tends much beyond them in England; 
and it seems to be resorted to from 
time to time, : with as little scruple, as 
an extension of the: customs or excise. 
But let this pass. 

As to the notion of a connexity in 
this case betwixt the benefit and the 
burthen, it has.been countenanced by 
an authority too respectable, not to 
deserve the most serious notice i* but 
come it from whom it will, it is a 
mere illusion.. The persons on whom 
the whole of the burthen is cast^ are 
precisely those, who have the least en- 
joyment of the benefit : the security 
which other people enjoy for nothing, 
without interruption, and every mo- 
ment of' their lives, they who are so 
unfortunate as to be obliged to go to 

^ Drs Adam Smith> Wealth of Nations. 



IM Then throw the Burthen^ 

law §of it, are forced to purchase at an 
eq>ense of time and trouble^ in addi^ 
tion to what pecuniary expense may 
he naturally unavoidable. Mean tinie^ 
which is of most value ? which most 
worth paying for ? — a possession thus 
cruelly disturbed, or the same posses- 
sion free from all disturbance ? — So 
&r then from being made thus wan* 
tonly to pay an extra price, a man 
who stands in this unfortunate pre- 
dicament, ought rather to receive an 
indemni6cation at the public expense,, 
fpr his time and trouble : and the dan- 
ger of insidious or collusive contests, 
in the view of obtaining such an in- 
demnity, is the only objection I can 
see, though perhaps a conclusive one, 
against the, granting it. 

Litigation may in this point of 
view be compared to war in sober sad- 
ness, as war has been to litigation in 


• - . -^;;-ra 

taherfi there is least Ben^. 35 

the way of pleasaatrjr. The suitor is 
th« forlorn hopo in this forensic warf* 
fare. To throw upon the suitor the 
expeose of admiaisteriug justice, in 
addition to the trouble and the risk 
of suing for it, is as if> in case of an 
invasion, you were to take the inhabi-* 
tants of the frontier, and force thmn^ 
not only to serve for nothing, but ta 
defray of thenaselves the whole expen- 
diture of the war. 

What in our times is become inve«* 
terate practice, is stigmatized as a 
' species of iniquity without a prece* 
dent, by Saint Pauh " Who is there,** 
demands the Apostle, ^' who is there 
tlmt ever goes to war at his own 
charge ?" — *^ Alas, r cries the pooi^ 
suitor, ^^ I do.'* 

The other argument in favour of a 
set of taxes of this kind,* is, that they 
are a check to litigation. 

Litigation is a term not altogether 



^i^m^jMfeMi^^aA . 

96 No Check to Idtigiousnes^, 

free from ambiguity. It is used some** 
times in a neutral sense^ to denote 
the prosecnting or defending a suit, 
though perhaps more frequently in a 
bad one. In its neutral sense, it ex- 
presses the irreproachable exercise of 
an essential right r in a bad sense a 
species of misconduct practised under 
the notion of exercising such a right. 

In the first sense, taxes can never 
have been recommended by any man 
as a check to litigation : in this sense, 
an avowed desire of checking litiga- 
tion, would be neither more nor less 
than an avowed desire of denying jus- 

In a bad sense again, the word 
ia used on two different occasions r 
where the suit, whatever be the import- 
ance of the matter in dispute, is on 
the part of the person spoken of as 
maintaining it, e^ groundless one : and 


but an Encouragement. 47 

Where the suit, however well grounded 
on his part in point of titles is on ac> 
count of the supposed unimportance 
of the matter in dispute, deemed a /n- 
volous, a- tricing, a trivial one : and in 
. either case, it is t^ course applicaUe 
to the situation of either plaintiff or 
defendant ; though it is apt to fix in 
the first instance and most readily up- 
on the situation of the plaintifi", as be- 
ing the party, who by taking the first 
step on the commencement ot the suit, 
exhibits himself as the author of it. 

On either side, litigation, when 
groundless, may be accompanied or 
not, with what the lawyers call in 
genere malitia, meaning consciousness of 
misdoing, and in this particular case 
■ntalafidesy consciousness of the ground- 
lessness of the action or defence, con- 
sciousness of the want of merits. 

Where merits ■ are wanting, bat 
thera • 

28 No Check to Lifigiousness, 

there exists no consciousness of the 
want^ taxes on law- proceedings do, it 
must be confessed^ operate as a check 
to litigation ; and that as well on the 
side where it is groundless as on that 
where it is well grounded^ and in the 
same degree. Indeed as both of two 
contending parties cannot in point of 
law be actually in the rights though 
either or both may think themsdves 
no, the impediment cannot operate to 
the denial of justice, but it must ope* 
rate to the prevention of groundless li« 
tigation at the same time. Prevent 
him who is in the right from institute 
ing a suit, you prevent him who is in 
the wrong from defending one. But 
neither is litigaticm prevented, any 
further than as justice is denied. So 
far then as this case extends, it is stilt 
but the other side of the same effect^ 
the denial qf justice. 


but an Encouragement. ' 29 


Have they then any peculiar ten* 
denoy to operate as a check to litiga* 
tion^ when it is not only groundless^ 
but accompanied with a'^consciousness 
of its being so i — to maUtious, or as it 
might with more propriety be termed^ 
antuconscientiaus litigation ? On the 
contrary, their direct tendency and 
sure effect is to produce it. 

They produce it <m the part of 
the plaintifi'-^Were proceedings at 
law attended with no expense nor 
other inconvenience, till the suit were 
heard and at an end, a plaintiff who 
had no merits, could do a defendant 
man no harm by suing him : he eould 
give him no motive for submitting to 
an unfounded claim : malice would 
have no weapons : oppression would 
have no instrument. When proceed- 
ings are attended with expense, the 
heavier that expense, the greater of 



9t No Cheek to iMigwum^ss^ 

these laws are thus far the sole canse^ 
setting out of the question the imper^ 
fectioQS of the judicial system, and 
the hope of seeing evidence peridi, 
or the guilty view of fabricating it, a 
fnan ^ill find no motive for instit«« 
ting a suit for an ordinary pecuniary 
demand, without believing himself to 
be in the right : for if he is in the 
wrong, disappointment, waste of time, 
fruitless trouble, and so. much ex-* 
pense as is naturally unavoidable, 
9te by the supposition what he knows 
must be his £ate. Whereas, on the 
pthc^r hand, a man upon whom ^ de« 
jpoand pf that kind is made, may, 
although he knows himself to be in 
the wrong, find inducement enofugh 
to stand a suit from a thousand other 
tronsiderations : from the hope of a 
d^ciency in point of evidence on the 
part of. the plaiuitifj^ not to mention, 




but an KncwragemenL 33 

before^ th^ rare and criminal enter* 

priae of fabricating evidence on his 

own. part : from the hope of tiring the 

plaintiff oat> or taking advantage oi 

casual incidents;^ such as the death of 

witnesses or parties : from the tempo* 

rary difficulty or inconvenience of sa* 

tisfying the demand^ or (to conclude 

with the case which the weakness of 

human nature renders by far the most 

frequent) from the mere unwillingness 

to satisfy it* 

In a word, they give a partial ad^ 
vantage to conscious guilt, on which- 
ever side it is found : and that advan* 
tage is most partial to the defendant's 
side, on which side consciousness of 
guilt, as we see, is most likely to be 

Better, says a law maxim subscribed 
to by every body, better that ten cri- 
minals should escape, than one inno-* 


qHMvvpv^iVMavv^ "■" ' " •«" '^•'^mmmmm^^^ 

d4 No Check to LUigiottshess, 

cent person should suffer : and this in 
case even of the deepest guilt. For tcn^ 
some read a hundred, some a thousand. 
Whichever reading be the best^ an ex-, 
pedient of procedure, the effect of 
which were to cause ten innocent per- 
sons to suffer for every ten guilty ones. 
Would be acknowledged to be no very 
eligible ingredient in the system. 
What shall we say of an institution, 
which for one culpable person whom 
it causes to suffer, involves in equal 
suffering perhaps ten blameless ones. 

Thus much for groundless suits : 
there remain^ the plea of its tendency 
to check what are deemed trivial suits. 
I know what a gfoundless suit means 
•^I know of no such thing as ^^frivo^^ 
Urns one» No wrong that I know 
of can be a trivial one, which to 
him to whom it is done appears a se- 
rious one, serious to such a degree, 
as t^ make it worth his while to de- 


but an Encouragement. 9S 

mand rediiess at the hand of justice.-^ 
Conduqt U the test of fiB^uig» I know 
of no. right I h%Y^ to s^t iip anjr 
fi^Mngs of my oyrn as the st^ndftidi^ 

t^e of Vfyi npighboqr^ 4^ Qontni4vi? 
tion to a declaration of ki§, t|^ tru^ 
of ifhich is f ndie9^e4 hy h» f^sm 
condinct, What to one imtn agfti^ !« 
trivial, to another man niay be of high, 
iinportance* {ii the aoponnt atwrnig 
tpo mn^t be iiidiided> wt <»o\f the 
indiTidqaji wrong taken by ijbelf, bttt 
its effects in the way of eneoorage* 
qient to repetition, and its e£fec1» in 
the way ^of example, I. know of no 
wrong sQ slight, that, by multaplica*^ 
tion may not become intoleraUe* 
Give a»e but a li^eoii^e to do to any 
person at pleasure tb^ mii^ltc^t wrong 
conceivably— I need no mote^ that 
pei)5on is my slave^ >^low me t^ Mb 
bWt tipuppgU it be bqt of a farthkigi 

M fiirtbing 

S6 No Check to Litigioushe^s, 

farthing by farthing,' 1 will find the 
bottomf of his purse. Allow me but 
to let fcdl a drop' x>f water upon his head 
*^gutta cavat lapidetn, the power of 
striking his %feail off would-be le^s Sui9- 
<jepltMe of iftl>use, 

' Ih pecuniary cases/ the smaller the 
suftab in dispute, the less reserve is used 
in branditig the conduct of the pdr-^ 
ttcfs^ With the charge of litigation, of 
wfaiid^* 'in tmeh cas^s the repitMabh is 
i^ to M '{iriueip&Ily, if not exdn* 
sively, to thaplaintfff'is t&hare. But the 
importance of the- sum Is altbgeth^ 
governed by Ihe cirCuitistancea of th^ 
p«rtl96>: the amount of it iii pounds^ 
shillings, 4nd pence, shdws nothing. 
One'itian*^ income may Be d hundredil 
9 tboiisand, four thousand times as 
p6kt asi that '6f another; ^ In England 
there lare men whose incdtti& e:!tceeds 
100^0001.' n year. I5h a year is as 


but an Encouragement. 37 

much as falls to the lot of perhaps 
' the greater number of the whole body 
' of the people. Without a particular 
caution^ a legislator or a judge wiU 
naturally enough^ like any other tnan^ 
take the relatidn of the sum in dis« 
pute to bis own feelings; that is^ its 
ratio to its own circumstances^ for the 
measure of importance : but by this 
standard he will be sure to be deceived^ 
' te often as the circumstances of the par- 
ties^ or eitiier of them^ are materiaffjr 
'different frotn his own. fifty pounds for 
'example^ will be apt to appear in his 
«eyes an object of constdierable import^ 
ancet an object of which a tienth or a 
twentieth part, orless, might be of im- 
portance si^cient to justHy from the 
charge of litigation, the maintenance 
of a suit/ A shilling would be almost 
sure to appear to him an object altoge- 
ther trifling; an object by no means 
* M 2 of 

3S No OkxtiQ litigjautfiess. 

^Mnteiia^oe ^i a mit. fifty poii*^ 
j(»^f|wev^r. a ^om pf less importances 
tp.n Diike of Marlboioa^ or iQe4* 
foxfi^ thw a aingle ahiUiiig (viz. than ^a 
four thousandth part of 50K) to many 
^ man, in tmth to piobaUy tho maf 
Jority of men in the kwg^iw* ft M 
jAer^re more npjiif^ m^dce ty^amo- 
Cid^ to i:ei^ to ||^ %hit deniMP4 ^ 
j^ aidin«i7 worldiig tpf^M^ jtp tl^e 
fn^n^t of a shiliing, tl^ it W09M 
|je to reftise to he^^r tl|ui 4^fff4 i^ a 
Puke of Marlboroiigh ^r Bedfiordg tp 
t|^ amoupt of 6Q\. The legislator, 
j^\p pn the plea of checking Ittiga^ 
^on» or on any other plea, exacts of a 
If parking man as a preliminary to his 
obtaining justice, what that working 
ig^an is unable to pay, ^9^ J^^ P^ 
him a hearing, does in a word refuse 
l)|)g justice, and that as effectually 


but tin Eriamragefhint^ 39- 

weA ooBipl«te}j, as it is posrible ta re^- 
Uue it« 

Tliat all men should have egtuii 
rights, not only woulil be paliticaUy 
pecnicioofl^ but is natiin^jr impoiadw 
ble: but I hope tbi«^ wiH not be said of 

Trivial canises>teqfaiDeiio sueh fiielis* 
tioiis checks: to such caiisea. were aUf 
tapeuses atmdc off that can be struoM 
O09 tliereaie natural checks iia al^dU 
attcdy tfaat^are unavwdaUe. Ther^r ill 
tiw paid of 4isappdintiiient;:. there it 
expense^, of wfakdi a cartatn nreasuse 
will/ every mow and then be absolutely 
unavoidable : there iis consumptioa of 
time, which ta the working classes^ 
that is, to the great nujority •of the 
peaple^ is expense* 

But even 1^ the cause be. trivial; 
and that to such a degree as to vea- 
dec the act of commeBcing the lili^i»- 


40 No Check to Litigiousness, 

tion blamable, the blame is nerer so • 
great on the side of the party most fi^* 
▼oured by the tax, as on tiie ride of 
the party most oppressed by it. The 
party* most oppressed is the complain* 
ant: the party who having suffered 
the injury,, such as it is, claims or 
would daim satisbction for it at the 
hands of juj^ce. But, so as there does 
but exist the smallest . particle of asx 
injury, the party who claims satisfac* 
tion for it can ne?er be so much ia 
the. wrong for doing so, but that he 
who refuses satis&ction must be still 
more so. If the demand be just, why 
did not he comply with it ? If just, 
but trifling, why does he contest it? 
In this case then yopi cannot punish 
in this way the misconduct of one par- 
ty, . without rewarding the still greater 
misconduct of the other. If the tax 
applies a check where there is blame, 
. ■ it 

but an Encouragement. 41 

it affords protection and encourage- 
ment where there is still greater 

Another iojastice.^-r-The poorer a 
man is^ the more exposed he is to the 
oppression, of which this supposed re- 
medy against litigation is the instru- 
ment. But the poorer a man ifi, the 
less likelj he. is .to be litigious. The 
less time arm^fi^b^s- to spare^ and the 
less a man qim afford to expend hii 
time (not to speak of money) without 
being paid for ^t,. the less likely is he 
to expose himself to such a consump* 
tion of his time. ^ 

The rich man^ the man who ha^ 
time and money at command, he sore- 
ly, if any, i^ |iie man to consume it 
litig^usly and fcivolously. .No wour 
der however, if to a supei^cial glance, 
the poor should appear more litigioiifi 
than he« There are nxore oi the poor 


42 N(y Check to Utigiousness, 

than of tbe rich t and to the eye of 
Bnireflecting opulence^ the causes ei 
the poor are all trivial ones. 

We think of the poor in the way 
of charity, for to deal out charity gra« 
tifies not only benevolence, ^but pride. 
We think mnch of them in the way 
of charity, but we think little of them 
in the way of justice. Justice, how- 
ever^ ranks before charity : and they 
would need less chdrity^ if ffiiey had 
more juatlee. 

Wtmt contributes more than any 
tiling to the indignation excited by 
suits that are deemed trivial and, on 
account of the triviality vexatious, is 
the excessive ratio of the expense <^ 
the suit te the value of the matter in 
dispute: especially when^ the matter 
in diq>ute being pecuniary, its- ini- 
imteness'is mt)re conspicuous and de- 
fined. But to what h this eepensive- 


but an EiacauragemeriL, 48 

neift owipgi^^rAftfaBiat lelBtk\ anithew 
taxe& are in questixm^ to the l^psbtor 
hiiMelfl — Msrk thea the intquhyi 
He is himself the author^ the wrongs 
and he puoishes for: it the ranooeat 
^XiA the ii^nred. 

To exclude the poor fmsn justictwM 
not enough :— they must be excluded 
idso from Tnercf. VtoAy shittiogs 15 
the tax imposed on pardons^ by a sta» 
mte of Ki|ig William (5. W. C. %h 
4 3.) forty shillings more by anotfaeTt 
no more than five years afterwards* 
(9 and 10. W. C. 25. § 3, 50.) Jo- 
gether^ 4U: — half a year's incon^e,of 
a British su^ject^ according to. Daver 
nant's computation above quoted. 
What is called mercjf^ let it be remem* • 
bered^ is in many cases, no more than 
Justice ' in all ca$es wbere the ground 
of pardon is the. persuasion of innor 
cence^ entert»ned either not^rithstand- 

M 3 ing 

44 No Check to Litigiausness, 

ing. the. verdict^ or in coniBeqoeDoe of 
evidence brougUt to light after the 
verdict.* AH punishments are accord- 
ingly irremissible, to him. who has not 
to the amount of half a year's income 
in store or credit: all fines to that 
amount or under, absolutely irremis- 

Taxes on law^proceedings, • so far 
then fropi being a check to liti- 
gation^ are an encoui»gement t^ 
it: an encouragement . to it. in eve- 
jry sense in which it is mischievous 

• Fop instance^ the case of Mr. Atkinson. 
' t It would be curious enough ' to know what 
|)v«fit the treasury may bare drawn from that time 
.to tbe preaeQti from . «o extcaordinary a ftind : 
certainly not enough to pay the salary of one of 
the Lord's Commissioners: probably not enough 
to pay that of his valet de chambre. 

llese are liiisy statutes. By the' prohibition 
«iid sale of Justice, they run counter tOiMagoa 
Cbarta: — by the prohibition of Mercy, they ' 
break the Coronation Oath. 



but an EncoutagetrienL 45 

«id Uamable. Woh14 you . really 
check litigation^ and check it ;OQ>boih 
aides ?— the simple coursie would (be a 
sure one; Wben men are: in earnest 
alMMit preventing. miscond net. in any 
ltne>. they annex punishment tomiscon^ 
duct in that line and to^that? only : a 
species of misconduct, which cannot be 
practised hutrasJtiwerQ under. the eye 
Okf the court;, is of all others tte easiiost 
to cope with in the way of law. ^Deal 
with misconduct that displays itself 
under the eye of the court as you 
deal by delinquency ajt . Jai^e^ and 
you may be sure of succeeding . to a 
istili.. superior degree^ Discriminate 
misconduct then from innocence : lay 
the burthen on misconduct and mis- 
conduct only> leaving innocence undp- 
pr^ed. Keep back .punishment^ till 
l^uilt is ascertained. Keep, back costs^ 
as much as possible^ till the last stage 



mm^^'^ ■■ ■ mrm^^^f^^^t^^t^ifmm^^^mmtmf^W' ^^mm/mm^m^m^^mi 

46 No Check to Lil^umsnesSy 

of {HTOcedore; keep off from both par^ 
ties every thing of expense thi^ is not 
absoliitely unatoidabfo^ where litiga^ 
tion ia on both ndes without Uame : at 
that last stage if there be fbond blame, 
throw whatever expense of which you 
allow the necessity to subsist beyond 
what is afotoliitely unavoidable, throw 
it on that side> and on that side only, 
where there has been blame. If on 
both, then if circumstances require, 
punish it on both sides, by fine for in- 
stance to the profit of the public. 

Litigation, though eventually it 

prove groundless, litigation, like any 

other course of conduct of which 

mischief is the result, is not therefore 

Mamable : and where it is blamable, 

there is a wide difference whether it is 

accompanied with temerity otAy, or 

, with consciousness of its own injustice. 

The countenance shewn to the parties 

' Mmn Encauragemeni. ^ 

hf ;ihekH wghfe to. be gofrsmed, and 
goverfied unifoimbjr aad. prapoctioa- 
41%, by tbfiM imfiartaut diffei«iioes.<«r 
Soi mmtk in pounk. <tf utititjF ::-T^4M(fir 
9tooda eitaWiriiiPCttt ?-mTa3wi liei^ped 
coin ail staged JhMB tbe. first ta tbe 
last wikhoiit distinction, i^^^^l coats 
giTon or no oosts^ not medium :-^*«GO(its 
acaree ever pcunplete, and nothing bf- 
yond GQiita.*-^o mitigation, or en- 
hancement, in consideration of pecu- 
niary circumstances. No shades of 
punishw^it in t)u» way earrespondent 
' to shades pf Uame t-^in most cases^ no 
difference so much as between c.on$ci- 
ousnesfli of injustice and simple temf- 
rity, jior so mu^h w betwixt either sMid 
innocence. The power of adjudging 
as between costs and no costs, seldom 
discretionary : — that of apportioning, 
never :-7-nor that o( fining beyond the 
. amouQt of cost3,:— cpnsfHiuently >ji0r 


' — — , 

48 No Check to LitigmamsSy 

that of panif hing boUi parties where 
t>oth ha^e been to blame. Were a 
power to be given by statute to. im- 
pose^-on a litigious suitor convicted of 
litigation, a fine to an amount not ex- 
ceeding what the 'losing party pays 
now^ whether he be blamable or 
blameless, it would be cried out against 
perhaps as a great pqwer, too great to. 
be given to judges without juries.^ ' 


. * The Aitiiiction between temerity and eon- 
sciousness of blame^ a dittinction perradkig hu- 
man nature, and applicable to every species of 
misbehaviour, is scarce so much as known to the 
English law. There are scarce words for it in 
the language. Temerity is taken fVom the- Ro- 
man law. Maltccp the term by .which English 
Lawyers seem in some instances to have had in 
view the expressing consciousness of blame, pre- 
sents a wrong idea, since in common language it 
lliiplies hatred, an affection which in many in- 
st|nce8 of conscious guilt, may be altogether 

wanting : — •■ 

but an Encouragement. / 49 

. Juitice shaU be denied U no man^jusm 
tice shall be sold to no man^ says the ficsfc 


wanting :^nfltance offences of mere* rapaeity^ 
soeh as theft, robbery* and homicide for lucre. > 
. The legislator {--iie talk of.?exatifl^?— He does 
every thing to create the evl]* he does nothing to 
remove it. 

I happened once to fall into conversation 
with a man who, from an Attorney, had been 
made J[adge of one-of the provinces in America. 
Justice, I. understood from him» was on.a.verir 
bad footing, there: it might be had almost fof 
nothing: the people were very litigious: he 
found them very troublesome. A summons 
cost — ^I forget whether it was diree and six- 
pence, or half a crown. Whom the half crown 
went to I do not know: one may bie pretty 
certain not to the Judge.— ^eing no prospect 
of our agreeing, 1 did not push the conversation 
far. The half crown seemed to him too little : 
to me it seemed all too much. The pleasant 
thing would have been to have enjoyed the 
salary in peace and quietness, without being 
plagued with a parcel of low people. Ju8ti<?e 
would then have been upon the best footing pos- 

fiO No CSieek to Litigiausnmf. 

oi^hl^lBOs^.Magmt &i»tA. Hm^ is it 
vnder theK laler ones ?^-^Beiiied» as w^ 
have seen^ to nine-tenths of the peo- 
pK sold, to this Q%h^. tenth, at an un- 
CQusaionablie price. Il^wasa. ^anoeit 
aiooiig^ the old lawyers^ reported if 
not adopted by Lord Coke, that 
a . statute made contrary to Magna 
ChartOp though made in all the forms^ 
wauld be a void law. Qod forbid^ 
that by all the lawyers in the worid^ 
or ibr the purpose of any argument,. 
I stiould ever suffer myself to be 
betrayed into any such extravagance : 

io a subject it. would be seditiont 
in a jiidge it would be usurpation, 
in any body it would be nonsense* 
But after all it must be acknowledg- 
ed^ to be in some degree unfortu- 


Wble^ He h^ accordingly a project kt cbeck- 
•ipg IHigaiion by raising the feea» I don't liinow 
. vhetber it succeeded* 


hut an Encouragement 51 

nate, as well as altogether siogu- 
lar^ that^ of an instroment deemed the 
fouadation of all liberty^ and magni* 
fied as such even still, to a degree of 
fanaticism, a passage by far the most 
Jmportant, and almost the only one 
that hias any applicatK>n now a days^ 
should be thus habitually trodden on* 
der foot, without remorse or reclama- 
tion;* ' 

* Let tts not for the purpose of any argumeot, 
give rise or countenance to injurious imputai- 
tioDS. Though justice is partly denied^ and 
pardy sold,, die difl^rence is certainly immense^ 
belwixt selling it for the person^ benefit of the 
1(ing or of a judges and selling it for the benefit 
of the public : — ^betwixt selling it by auction^ and 
selling it at a fixed price :— bietwixt denying^ it for 
the sake of fbrcing the sale of it, or denying it 
to a> few obnoxious: individual^ and 'denying 
it indiscrinunatety to tJ^ gre^l majority of thie 
people. In point of moral guilty there is cer- 
tunly no compariscm : but ua point e£ ptalitkal 
efiect^ it may not be ^taogtAir easy in eteiy 


St Why resorted to, 

- A tax so impolitic and so grievous, 
a tax thus demonstrated to be the 
worst of taxes^ how comes it ever 
to have been made choice of, and 
when made choice of, acquiesced in ? 
— These are not questions of mere 
curiosity: for acquiescence under a 
tax, :and that so general, forms at first 
glance no inconsiderable presumptioQ 
in its favour. A presumption it doea 
form: but when demonstration faaa 
sh^wn itself, presumptions are at an 

How comes the tax to have been 
made choice of? — One cause we have* 
seen already in another shape; the 
unscrutinized notion of its supposed 
tendency to check litigation: litiga* 
tion, which where it stands for mis* 
chief, . is the very misthief which the 

• • * * ' 

part of the {laralld, to.say which mode of abuse 
it most extensively pcxaicious. 


and aeguiesced tmdfir. jf9 

9pecies of tax ii^ question contributes 
ivith all its power to promote* 

Another cause may possibly be, the 

tendency which this sort of tax has ta. 

be confounded in the eye of an incu* 

rious observer^ with other sorts^ which, 

are eitlier the best of all. or next to 

the best. The best of all are taxes on 

consumption^ because not only do; 

they fall no where without finding. 

some ability to pay them \ but where 

i^ecessaries are put of the question^ 

they fall on nobody who has not the^ 

option of not paying them if he do^s 

not choose it^ Taxes. on property^ 

and those on transfer of propertyn 

such as those on contracts relative t^, 

property^ are the next best : because^ 

though they are not^ optional like th(^ 

former^ they may be so selected as 

never to call for money but wherQ 

there is ability , nay even ample abi- 


54 Wkyresorted to, 

IHy, to pay them. jWow of tBese t#o 
most supportable classes oC taxes; th« 
second are all of them leTted by means 
6t stamps : taxes on consun^ption too^ 
in many- instances, such as those' on 
eards^ dice, gloves, and perfumery^ 
flhovr to the eye as stamp^uties; 
But all these ar6 very good taxes* 
Stamp^dntfes therefore are good taxes r 
and taxes on justice are idl' stamp-cKi- 
ties. — ^Thinking men look to centre- 
quences^ Ihey.Mok to f^e feelingsr of 
l^e individuab affected : acting- men 
look to the stamp : taxes on justice, 
taxes on property, taxes- on consump- 
tion, are accordingly one and the same 
^ject to the optics of finance^ Stamp- 
duties too have another most conve* 
hient property, they execute them- 
sdves; and lavr taxes beyond all others : 
in short they exclude all smuggling.^ 

« Law paper might be forged : but the diffi- 
culty woidd be to iwue it. 



and ae^fuiesced under. £$ 

ICbej heap distress indeed upon dis- 
tress.: but the d^tnsss is not vw^i 
lundingy as there is no escftping it. 

But • the great cause, of all ij^ th« 
prospect of acquiescence : a proi^ect 
first presented by Ifufpe, ^nc^ reali«e4 
.oyer awd over ag^ by esperiencQ» 
It is pM much to expect of a man; of * 
finitpce^ tjbiat be should anticipate the 
fillings of unjcnown individu^ : i^ 
is a great deal if he will listen to their 
cries. Taxes on consumption fall oa 
bodies of men : the most inconsiden* 
Itble one when touched will make 
the whole country ring again. The 
oppressed and ruined objects of the 
tiaes on justice^ weep in holes and 
corner^t as rats die : no one voice 
jBnds any other to join with it. 

A tax on shops^ a tax cm tobisccO| 
falls upon a man^ if at all* immo^ately^ 
and presses on bifn constantly : every 
man knows whether he keeps or 

56 Why resotted to, 

means to keep a sbop^ whether be 
means to sell or to use tobacco. A 
tax on justice' falls upon a man onljr 
occasionally : it is like a thunder- 
stroke, which a man never looks for 
till he is destroyed by it. He does not 
know when it will fall on bim, oir 
whether it ever will*: nor even whe- 
'tber, when it does fall, it will press up- 
t>n'ftmi most, or upon his adversary. 
He ktioWs not what it will amount to: 
lie has no dnta from which to calcu- 
late it : it comes lumped to him in 
'the general mass of law charges : a heap 
of -items among which no vulgar eyt 
can ever hope to discriminate: an' ob- 
ject on which investigation would be 
thrown away, as comprehension is im- 
possible; ' Calamities that are hot to 
be averted by thought, are little 
thought of, atid it is best' not tb think 
of them. When is the time for com* 
plaint? Before the thunder-bolt is 
* fallen 


and acquiesced URd&r. d7 

fkllen^ it would be tb^ soon: when 
iallen^ it is too lat^. Shopkeepers, to- 
babcotiists, glovers, are compact bd« 
dies : they can arm counsel : they 
come in force to the House of Coni-^ 
mdna. Suitors for justice have no 
(bommon caiise> and scaf ce a conoimon 
name t they are every body and no^ 
body : their business being : eveny 
body's is nobody 'Si ' Who Are suit* 
ors? where are they? what ^ does a; 
Chancellor of the Exchequer ^iiftrtf 
for them ? what can they do t6 )Me^p 
him ? what ean they do t^ hurt him ^ 
So far from having a ebinmon iifiteresty 
they have repugnant i])r^^*ests: to 
crush the injured, is to- befriend the in-< 
jurer* ! ' v : - • 

May not ignorance iiHth regard to 
the ^ndnfUm and ther libiirce of th^ 
jgrievance/ have coirtributied - 'ioihe^' 
thing to patience? — Unable to pliefce 
the veil of darkness, that gui^txls from 


Ti^— a» 

Ti4gar eyeM tibe air^ques ^^f justicfb 
men know not bow much of the 4ifllr» 
cnlty of the approach is to be ascribed 
to art^ iBiid how much to nature. . A« 
thi^ Qonsamer^ of tobacco c<M>f<98n4 

the lax on that opmmodii^.with i\m 
l^oej so tho9e who boivQw or y9wSA 
haFe wished to borrow the hand of 
jiN^tcet confoiuid the artificial: with 
tbo aateral expenso of hiring it. Bat 
tf th^ wholo of the giieyance> 
tpral, it may bo all inevitabJk and ili^ 
rarab1e» and at any rate it aiay be no 
more the &uj[t of lawyers or law ma^ 
Xtn^ than gont and stone are of phy- 
fiieians. — Happy ignorance ! — ^if blind- 
ness to the cause of a malady eouli 
blunt the pain of it ! 

There want not apologists- general 
aod talkers ia the air^ to prove to us 
that this as well as every t)i»|]^ ^Ise^ 
is 9iik it should be. The expense^, the 
4elfiy, aud all the other grievances^ 




an(f acquiesced under. 59 

which* activity has heaped up, or negli- 
gence suffered to accumulate^ are the 
prices which, aiscording to Montes* 
quieu, we must be content to pay fov 
liberty and justice. A penny is the 
price men pay for a penny loaf : there- 
fore why not two-pence ? and, if three^ 
pence, there would be no harm done/ 
since the loaf would be worth so muck 
the more. • 

May not a sort of instinctrve fellow^ 
feeling among the wealthy have con- 
tributed something, if not to the im- 
position, at lea^ to the acquiescence } 
It is the wealthy alone, that either, by 
fortune, situation, education, inteUi-. 
gence, or influence, are quali&ed to 
take the lead in legislation : and the 
characteristic property of this tax, is 
to be favourable to the wealthy, and 
that in proportion to their wealth.; 
Other taxes affond a man no indenini-- 
fication for the wealth they take froto. 

N him: 

60 Why resorted td, 

him: Um gives btm power m eseeluuige* 
The power of fce^mg dowa those 
who are to be kept dowA, tiie power 
•f dpiqg wrongs and the move gene* 
rotts pride of «bf tainiiig fitim the wpong 
which it is in our powerto 4<^ s advnn^ 
tages such Mtbese, are too precHous not 
to be graced at with aviditjrby human 
weakneM & and^ a»in a oMntry <^ politi- 
cal liberty^ and under a system of justice 
in crtber fespect^ impartial^ 4hey can 
only be obti^tned by a blind and indi* 
Kct route such as thi6> the inconveni* 
ence of t^eHmg in it^ finds^ on -the 
part of thostii who are well equip-- 
ped for it, the more patient an aequi^ 

Will it be said that abdisbing the 
taixet on justice would not ansii^er the 
purpoa^y for that' siipposing them all 
aboiifihed^ justice Would still remain 
inaccessible to the body of the people ? 
~.This would be to justify one abuse 
; by 

and dcpticsced under. $1 

bjr another^ The other ebstedei by 
m^idi ikenmrntB to justice have beat 
Mocked ap,. conrtitiite a separale he^ 
of abuae» frote ifhich I gladly tort 
aside, as behq; foreign to the present 
purpose. Taike off law taxes all toge- 
ther^ the niuaber of Hiose to whom jus- 
tice will stttl remaia inacoessible^ 
would stilU it must be eoafessed^ ba 
but too great. It would however not 
be so greats as it is at present under 
the (Nressure of those taaceo^ Though 
you could not teil exactly to how ma* 
ny you woald op^i the doors of jus-^ 
tice^ you might be sure you dpened 
them to some. Though yoa would 
still leave the burthen but too heavy, 
you would at any rate make it propor- 
tionably more supportable. 

If by taking off these taxes, you re^ 
duced the expense of a common action 
from 9SI. to sol., you might open 
the door, suppose, to one in five of 


0S Whf resorted to, 

those against whom it is shut at pre* 
tent. Eren this would be something : at 
any rate whatever were the remaining 
quantum of abuse, which you still suf- 
fered to subsist^ you would have the 
consolation at least of not being active- 
ly instrumental in producing 4t. To 
jfeform in toto a system of procedure is 
a work of time and difficulty, and 
firould require a rare union of legal 
knowledge with genius :— repealing a 
tax may require discernment, candour, 
philanthropy, and fortitude ; but is a 
work of no difficulty, requires no extra- 
ordinary measure of science, nor even 


90 much time as the imposing of one. 

But by whatever plea the continu- 
ance of the subsisting taxes of this 
kind may be apologized for, nothing 
can be said in favour of any new addi- 
tion to the burthen. The subsisting 
ones, it may be said, have been acqui- 
esced in, and men are used to them : 


and acquiesced under. 63 

in this respect at least they have the ad<* 
vantage of any new ones which could 
be substituted in the room of them. 
But even this iaimoral plea, which puts 
bad and good upon a level, effacing all 
distinction but that between established 
and not established, even this faint plea 
is mute against any augmentation of 
this worst of evils^ 

To conclude — Either I am much 
mistaken, or it has been proved— 
that a law tax is the worst of all taxes^ 
actaal or possible : — ^that for the most 
part it is a denial of justice, that at 
the best, it is a tax upon distress :-— 
that it lays the burthen, not where 
there is most, but where there is least, 
benefit: — ^that it co-operates with 
every injury, and with every crime :-— 
that the persons on whom it bears 
hardest, are those on whom a bur- 
then of any kind lies heaviest, and^ 
that they compose the great majority 


64 Recapitulation. 

of the people : — that so far from being 
a check, it is an encouragement to li- 
tigation : and that it operates in direct 
breach of Magna Charta^ that venera- 
ble monument, commonly regarded as 
the foundation of English liberty. 
The statesman who cares not wbat 


mischief he does, so he does it without 
disturbance, may lay on law taxes with- 
out end : he who makes a conscience 
to abstain from mischief will abstain 
from adding to them : he whose ambi- 
tion it is to extirpate mischief, will re- 
peal them. 

General error makes late, says a 
maxim in use among lawyers. It 
pnakes at any rate an apology for law : 
but when the error is pointed out, tb^ 
apology is gone. 

' —• . .- —■, . 




Mem. — ^Anno, 1796. At a dinner at Mr. M. 
P/s, in " ■■ Street, Mr. R. in the presence 

of Mr. William Pitt, (then Minister) took me 
aside, and told me that they had read my Pam- 
phlet on Law Taxes ; that the reasons against them 
were unanswerable, and it was determined there 
should be no more of them. 

Anno, 1804, July 10, 19, U, IS.—This being 
in the number of Mr. Addington's Taxes, Mr. 
Pitt, upon returning to office, took up all those 
Taxes in the lump. On the above days, this Tax 
was opposed in the House of Commons : and Mr. 
Wyndham, according to the report in the Times, 
on one of those days, spoke of this Pamphlet as 
containing complete information on the subject ; 
observing at the' same time, that it was out of 
print On behalf of administration^ nothing like 
an answer to any pf the objections was attempted : 
only the Attorney-General (Percival) said, that 



tbe addition fHoposed to those Tax€$, was no- 
more than equal to the depreciation of money. 

Mr. Addington, b^ore this* had recourse to the 
Tax on Medicine hece q>oken of, (p. 32.) So 
that, in the course of his short administration, if 
the representation here gtsn be covrect, he had 
had the misfortune to find out and impose the two 
worst species of taxation possible. Compare this 
with Denmark, and its courts oi Natural Proceditre^ 
called ReccmdHatiim Count. 

26th Febniary,1816. — Unallsriatcd by any ade- 
quate hope of use, too painful would be the task, of 
bun ting out, and holding up to ylew, Uie sidisequent 
additions, which this worst of oppressions has, in 
this interval of twenty years, been receiving. 

Money, it is said, must be bad, and no other 
taxes can be found. The justification being con- 
clusive, the tax receives its increase : next year» 
from the same hand, flow others in abundance. 

Grievous enough is the Jbtcomc Tax, called,, 
lest it should be thought to be what it is, the 
Prcperiy Tax, — Grievous that tax is, whatever be 
its name ; yet, sum for sum, compared with this, 
tax, it is a blessing. Instead of 10 per cent sup- 
pose it 80 per cent. Less bad would it be to add 
yet another 10 per cent, than a tax to an equal 
amount upon justice. 



Grievoui have been the additions, so lately and 
repeatedly made, to the taxes on Conveyancei and 
Agreements. Extensive the prohibitory part of 
the effect, though the pressure, — confined as 
usual to the poor, i. e. the great majority of -the 
community, who have none to speak for them,— 
is scarcely complained of by the rich. Yet, were 
all law-taxes taken o£F^ and the amount thrown 
upon Conve^iances and Agreements, this-^yen this 
—•would in reality be an indulgence. 

Whether the oppression be more or less griev- 
ous, is never worth a thought Will it be sub- 
mitted to? — ^This is the only question. Charity 
is kicked out of doors. Hope is fled. Faith and 
Piety remain, and atone for every things 

For a list of about twenty-eight other sources 
of factitious delay, vexation, and expense, and 
ihence of denial of justice, produced by the judges 
of former times, for the augmentation of lawyers' 
profit, their 0W9 included, — together with a list 
and summary account of the devices by which 
these burthens have been imposed, and by which 
Teclmical stands distinguished from Natural PrO" 
eedure, — see by the same author, Scotch Reform^ 
&c. printed for Ridgway, Piccadilly, 


Ik Ihe ccMdtt of Chmooy, two cmgi liXTe re- 
cent^ wcwted. «Uch B*T »*« u an illDttn- 
lM« ff libe eitenl is whkb tbe txxo npoo hw 
|iiir*itti MUf apente m a denial of jostke. 

Ik ^hw talk nuHtiTafaiB. smbmitud diat 
k* «^ Mt tobc LiaajirlFiitD «loiAca1UR 
Mn«*t vUck kU btcB icqucd by the biO. as 
*t ts^OM <r takaf «tat B caled a* office copy 
rflWM. ■Miiiwj fiF.8wi»My t» aaj fiirtba 
fKftrtflmf ** «^ F*rt rf ifce mmuf in the 
1 — H. < »^lw m1 »nfcewa«a.000^i an 

ca^A AooU be tct art: bat id comh^ to this ' 

eoodiiMMt, bow fiv die eovrt vai deteniuBcdbr 

the natwe of the particdar CMC. or by tlK n^Bi- 



fade of the expenie that woald thus be occasion- 
ed j— or whether if, without any such objection, the 
Defendant had actually set out these accounts^ 
the Pbintiff could have been relieved from pur* 
suing the regular mode of procuring a copy of 
them, and thus incurring the above expense ;— or 
whether, if the expense had been instead of 
39,0001. only 28 or 27 thousand pounds, such 
an objection would have been listened to;— it is 
extremely difficult to say. 

The other case alluded to, is one in which 
from peculiar circumstances, it is not thought 
proper to mention the names of the parties. 
It is optional with a man to be a Plaintiff in 
a cause, it is not altogether so optional with 
him to be a Defendant The preceding case 
shews that it is not always safe for a man to 
become a Haintiff, without 28>000/. at least in 
his pocket, to begin with, over and above what 
is necessary for his maintenance. — ^The following 
case shews that a man may not be always able to 
resist a demand, however unjust it may be, with- 
out being able to support an outlay of at least 
800/. In the case in question, the writer of this 
has been assured, — and from authority, which he 
has peculiar reason for relying upon,— ^at the ex- 
pense of merely putting in an answer by one of the 
Defendants to a bill in Equity, amounted to the 





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